Memory Enhancement Achieved in Rats

Memories are fragile; initially forming and then retrieving them are both dependent on new protein synthesis in the brain, and both processes are vulnerable to disruption. A number of agents are known that can impair memory and these can certainly be useful — for example, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). Enhancing memory, however, has proven more difficult. Yet as noted in The New York Times last week [1], two different research groups have recently reported enhancing memory in rats [2-3]. Of note is the fact that they did so utilizing independent molecular pathways.

Rat in a maze

Rehabilitation After Stroke: They do it with Mirrors

Recent research by Michielsen and colleagues has demonstrated that “mirror therapy”, which can be given at home, results in significant, albeit modest, improvement in arm, wrist and hand movement abilities of stroke patients [1]. Mirror therapy is where the arm with impaired movement is placed behind a mirror and the unimpaired arm is reflected in the mirror, giving the appearance to the patient that when the unimpaired arm is moved, the impaired arm is also moving.

Mirror therapy for stroke rehabilitation

Vitamin D Regulates Genes Associated with Susceptibility to Autoimmune Diseases

Vitamin D is, at this point, probably one of the trendiest vitamins around. Everyone suddenly seems to be getting their vitamin D level tested (specifically vitamin D3 or 25(OH)D, also called calcidiol) and, when levels are found to be deficient, taking supplements. In November 2010, the Institute of Medicine tripled its daily recommendations for vitamin D from 200 International Units to 600 [1]. Severe vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which leads to a softening and weakening of the bones, so milk has been fortified with vitamin D to prevent rickets. Less dramatic vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in ailments ranging from cancer to heart disease to schizophrenia to autoimmune diseases to colds and the flu. But how does vitamin D act in the body — how can it contribute to so many different physiological processes?

Functions of vitamin D

Abnormal Heart Rate Turbulence May Predict Heart Disease

According to a study in the February 15 edition of the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, abnormal heart rate turbulence is associated with an increased risk of heart disease death in otherwise older, low-risk individuals [1]. Additional studies need to be done in order to understand whether this potential biomarker will be a clinically valuable tool.


Grey Weather, Grey Mood: Cortisol Levels May Underlie Seasonal Affective Disorder

The relationship between season and psychological health in terms of mood has been greatly researched. A recent study shows the cortisol function differs over season in people reporting “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD [1]. This may finally help us to understand any biological mechanism underlying of SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder