Mapping Connections in the Human Brain

The first high-resolution structural connection map of the human cerebral cortex was published earlier this month in the journal PLoS Biology. The study reveals regions that are highly connected and central, forming a structural core network [1]. Intriguingly, this core network consists of many areas that are more active when we’re at rest than when we’re engaged in a task that requires concentration.

Nirvana in the Right Hemisphere: A Stroke of Insight

In January 2007, a meta-analysis published in the journal Neurology determined updated rates of the most common neurological disorders [1]. The review found that 183 out of every 100,000 people suffer a stroke each year. Most studies included in the analysis attributed 80% or more of all strokes to ischemia (meaning a localized deficiency of blood caused by a clot obstructing arterial flow). In contrast, the incidence of a hemorrhagic stroke (meaning bleeding in the brain) is much more rare and is associated with higher mortality rates. Indeed, a study of stroke incidence rates and case fatality in 15,792 middle-aged adults found that hemorrhagic strokes were 4.5 times as fatal as ischemic strokes [2].

The Genetics of Panic Disorder

A study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Medical Genetics suggests that lymphoblast gene expression may be used to identify biomarkers for panic disorder. Researchers at the University of Iowa evaluated gene expression profiles in lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) cultured from patients with and without panic disorder and found specific disorder- and sex-related differences [1]. A blood test for panic disorder and other mental health conditions based on the study results is being developed. However, a commercial diagnostic test may be premature as the study results are far from conclusive.

Updated Rates of the Most Common Neurological Disorders

An up-to-date review of the most common neurological disorders in the United States was published in the January 30th issue of Neurology [1]. Researchers reviewed nearly 500 articles published between 1990 and 2005 to determine the rates of prevalence (meaning the total number of cases of a disease in a given population at a specific time; does not convey information about risk) or incidence (meaning the rate of occurrence of new cases of a particular disease in a given population; measures the risk of a disease) for 12 neurological disorders.