Researchers may have discovered the mechanism behind how prions ? pieces of protein molecules? can kill nerve cells in the brain and lead to some serious degenerative diseases. The key seems to lie in how one particular protein misfolds within an organelle inside the cell, transforming itself into a new agent and then poisoning the neuron in which it was made.
High doses of the naturally occurring compound coenzyme Q10 has been found to slow by 44 percent the deterioration in function that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. The greatest benefit was seen in everyday activities like eating, dressing, bathing and walking. But researchers say that before people run out to RightAid for a barrel of the stuff, a wider study is needed (this one tracked 80 patients). Parkinson?s is a degenerative disorder of the brain in which patients develop tremor, slowness of movement and stiffness of muscles. It affects about 1 percent of Americans over the age of 65.
I’m sorry, what were you saying? I got distracted by this story from the American Psychological Association that says researchers have successfully mapped different aspects of attention to parts of the brain’s frontal lobes. Turns out that the once-monolithic concept of “attention” has at least three distinct processes that look to be functionally and anatomically different.
A new study aims to determine once and for all whether a link exists between obsessive-compulsive behavior and strep infections in children. The research, to be conducted by the University of Florida and the National Institutes of Mental Health, is prompted by anecdotal reports from parents with OCD kids that their children’s behavior, such as compulsive hand washing, worsens when the child is ill with strep.
Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”
Medical researchers have successfully reversed the progression of Parkinson’s disease in rats through the use of gene therapy. By adding a gene for a single enzyme, they were able to reprogram brain circuits and halt the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells, one of the key problems in the disease. The lack of dopamine is what leads the the tell-tale shaking and muscle twitches of Parkinson’s patients.