‘Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry” (July 10, 2020):
We tested the hypothesis that apathy, but not depression, is associated with dementia in patients with SVD. We found that higher baseline apathy, as well as increasing apathy over time, were associated with an increased dementia risk. In contrast, neither baseline depression or change in depression was associated with dementia. The relationship between apathy and dementia remained after controlling for other well-established risk factors including age, education and cognition. Finally, adding apathy to models predicting dementia improved model fit. These results suggest that apathy may be a prodromal symptom of dementia in patients with SVD.
Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is the leading vascular cause of dementia and plays a major role in cognitive decline and mortality.1 2 SVD affects the small vessels of the brain, leading to damage in the subcortical grey and white matter.1 The resulting clinical presentation includes cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms.1
Apathy is a reduction in goal-directed behaviour, which is a common neuropsychiatric symptom in SVD.3 Importantly, apathy is dissociable from depression,3 4 another symptom in SVD for which low mood is a predominant manifestation.5 Although there is some symptomatic overlap between the two,6 research using diffusion imaging reported that apathy, but not depression, was associated with white matter network damage in SVD.3 Many of the white matter pathways underlying apathy overlap with those related to cognitive impairment, and accordingly apathy, rather than depression, has been associated with cognitive deficits in SVD.7 These results suggest that apathy and cognitive impairment are symptomatic of prodromal dementia in SVD.
“Numerous studies have linked insufficient sleep with significant health consequences. Yet, many people ignore the signs of sleep problems or don’t allow enough time to get adequate sleep,” said lead researcher Eileen Leary. She is a senior manager of clinical research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
“REM sleep appears to be a reliable predictor of mortality and may have other predictive health values,” Leary said. “Strategies to preserve REM may influence clinical therapies and reduce mortality risk, particularly for adults with less than 15% of REM sleep.”
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when dreams occur and the body repairs itself from the ravages of the day. For every 5% reduction in REM sleep, mortality rates increase 13% to 17% among older and middle-aged adults, researchers report.
For the study, Leary and her colleagues included more than 2,600 men, average age 76, who were followed for a median of 12 years. They also collected data on nearly 1,400 men and women, average age 52, who were part of another study and were followed for a median of 21 years.
Poor REM sleep was tied to early death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular and other diseases, the researchers found.
Tension-type headaches can be either episodic or chronic. They are rarely disabling or associated with any significant autonomic phenomena, thus patients do not usually seek medical care and usually successfully self-treat. Unlike migraine, there is no significant nausea, no vomiting, and a lack of aggravation by routine physical activity.
In this podcast Mark Green, Professor of Neurology, Anesthesiology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Director of Headache and Pain Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, gives a clinical overview of the condition.
Can you imagine if each word had its own colour, or you could ‘see’ different types of music?
Synesthetes can experience the ordinary world in some pretty extraordinary ways. In this video Jamie Ward explains the variety of different ways in synesthesia can manifest itself, and what is happening in the brains of those who experience it.
Jamie Ward is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex. He has written books a number of books about neuroscience and synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report a lifelong history of such experiences are known as synesthetes. Awareness of synesthetic perceptions varies from person to person. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme–color synesthesia or color–graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may appear as a three-dimensional map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Synesthetic associations can occur in any combination and any number of senses or cognitive pathways.
From a March 5, 2020 American Academy of Neurology release:
“These results are exciting, as they suggest that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of aging on the brain simply by becoming more active,” said study author Yian Gu, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Recent studies have shown that as people age, physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Our study used brain scans to measure the brain volumes of a diverse group of people and found that those who engaged in the top third highest level of physical activity had a brain volume the equivalent of four years younger in brain aging than people who were at the bottom third activity level.”
Older people who regularly walk, garden, swim or dance may have bigger brains than their inactive peers, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, April 25 to May 1, 2020. The effect of exercise was equal to four fewer years of brain aging. The study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure the brains of people with a range of activity levels, including those who were inactive to those who were very active. The scans showed less active people had smaller brain volume.
From a Rush University Medical Center online article:
The study found that participants in the group with the highest flavonol consumption were 48% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia later on in life than participants with the lowest level. Of the 186 people in the highest group, 28 people, or 15%, developed Alzheimer’s dementia, compared to 54 people, or 30%, of the 182 people in the lowest group.
People who eat or drink more foods with flavonol, which is found in nearly all fruits and vegetables, plus tea and wine, may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the Rush researchers. They published the results of their study in the Jan. 29 online issue of Neurology.
Flavonols are a type of flavonoid, a group of phytochemicals found in plant pigments. They are known for their beneficial effects on health due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
A total of 921 people with an average age of 81 participated in the Neurology study. These participants did not have Alzheimer’s dementia when starting the study.
For those with insomnia, however, the stressor appears to be the lack of sleep, and the desire for sleep becomes a stressor in itself. In other words, the fixation on getting sleep leads to feelings of stress over not falling asleep, which begins a vicious loop. According to a model first proposed by Kales et al. in 1976, patients can develop a conditioned fear of not being able to sleep, which puts them in a state of hyperarousal when they attempt to fall asleep. This makes their inability to sleep a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Insomnia is the most common sleep condition in the world, with half of adults globally reporting occasional episodes. Chronic insomnia, though far less prevalent, affects as many as 10 to 15 percent of the adult population.
Though these sleep problems are extremely common, the neurobiological mechanisms behind insomnia are not entirely understood. Research suggests that emotional stressors do play an outsized role in contributing to sleep problems, and it is well documented that mood and anxiety disorders are common comorbidities with insomnia. This seems like common sense. Emotional arousal, whether due to a state of anxiety or because of intrusive thoughts, makes it difficult to relax, thereby inhibiting one’s ability to either initiate sleep or get back to sleep after waking.
Dr. Nilüfer Ertekin-Taner, neurogeneticist and behavioral neurologist, discusses characteristics of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and movement disorders. She also discusses her research on the complex genetics of Alzheimer’s disease, including identifying therapeutic targets and biomarkers. She highlights Mayo Clinic’s unique approach to patient care.