Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

Neurogenesis and Brain Fitness for Stroke Victims

Sunday, February 21st, 2010
How A Stroke Affects The Brain

How A Stroke Affects The Brain

Scientists at the University of Iowa have published results of a fascinating study showing that antidepressants can improve the cognitive functioning of stroke victims.

Prior studies had indicated that antidepressants provided cognitive benefits for depressed stroke victims. The authors of this study set out to find whether the same would be true for those not suffering from depression.

“We knew that a patient with depression had poorer outcomes. We knew also that antidepressants improved outcomes among depressed patients,” professor Ricardo Jorge explained. “But we really didn’t have (although we had a hint) evidence that antidepressants given in small doses — relatively small doses — would be able to modify the outcome of these patients, particularly the cognitive outcome.”

The team compared the benefits of antidepressant treatment to the improvements on cognitive tests in two control groups, who received training in problem-solving skills or a placebo.

“The change in memory scores in this neuropsychological test for those patients who received the escitalopram was 11.3 points, against 2.5 points of positive change in patients who did not receive escitalopram,” says Dr. Jorge.

While pointing out that increased neurogenesis isn’t the only possible explanation for the cognitive benefits of antidepressants to the stroke patients he indicated that it was a distinct possibility:

“This is a complex issue, because there are several alternatives,” he explains. “One, and probably one that is quite appealing because this is related to the mechanism of antidepressants for treatment of depression, is that antidepressants have an effect called a neurotrophic effect. In a sense, that increases the expression of neurotrophic factors.”

“There is evidence that it will increase the neurogenesis and the proliferation of primordial neurons in the hippocampus,” Dr. Jorge theorized. “There are several trophic effects that help the brain reorganize itself. This is also important because the period immediately after a stroke is a period of greater plasticity in the brain, where the brain tries to compensate for its deficits. In not only a functional way but also in a structural way, there are changes in structure and changes in function that try to override the deficits brought by the stroke.”

See original report.

Brain Plasticity: Learning to Rethink Drugs

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

An article in MIT’s Technology Review “Making an Old Brain Young: Scientists are developing new ways to manipulate the brain’s normal plasticity” caught my eye this week. From the title I thought this would be a serious review of the medical advances expected from therapies that leverage brain plasticity.

Unfortunately, the article focused entirely on the possibility for developing drugs that exploit plasticity.

I’m not against drugs. Drugs are amazing. One very immediate example in my life: My daughter has congenital hypothyroidism — without synthetic thyroid hormone she would have been severely disabled. The medical world should be evaluating drugs that leverage plasticity. What concerned me about the article was the lack of any mention of reference to non-drug therapies. At the moment such therapies seem to be appearing or surfacing thick and fast and can be used right now, without waiting for the drugs to be developed, tested and approved: The Australian Alzheimer’s Association has endorsed brain training exercises as a non-pharmacalogical mechanism for delaying or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. The most effective therapies for stroke victims leverage plasticity through non-drug therapies (see Drake and Taub). Many learning specialists now work with brain exercises to mitigate or correct learning dysfunctions rather than accommodations. And other research has shown that the generation of new nerve cells in the dentate gyrus helps combat depression — something that can be assisted with exercise and brain exercise…

Surely, if our newfound knowledge of plasticity teaches us anything it teaches us that non-drug therapies can achieve some remarkable results.