Neuroscience – SciPol Weekly, November 11 – November 17


AlzForum – NIA Seeks Community Input on Alzheimer’s Eureka Prize

The National Institute on Aging has issued a call for public comment to help shape its first Eureka prize for research on Alzheimer’s disease and AD-related dementias (AD/ADRD). Eureka prizes were mandated in the 21st Century Cures Act. Signed into law in 2016, it requires the National Institutes of Health to create prize challenges to stimulate biomedical discoveries, especially for diseases for which the government spends disproportionately less on research than treatment. “We hope to receive a lot of input,” said Melinda Kelley at NIA in Bethesda, Maryland.

FDA – FDA grants marketing authorization of the first device for use in helping to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted a new indication to an electric stimulation device for use in helping to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. “Given the scope of the epidemic of opioid addiction, we need to find innovative new ways to help those currently addicted live lives of sobriety with the assistance of medically assisted treatment. There are three approved drugs for helping treat opioid addiction. While we continue to pursue better medicines for the treatment of opioid use disorder, we also need to look to devices that can assist in this therapy,” said Scott Gottlieb, M.D. 

Reuters – Opioid abuse crisis takes heavy toll on U.S. veterans

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission. Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

USA Today – Army lifts ban on waivers for recruits with history of some mental health issues

The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses. Expanding the waivers for mental health is possible in part because the Army now has access to more medical information about each potential recruit, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. 

USA Today – Report: Alzheimer's treatment could be on horizon - but changes needed in health system

An effective treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease might be on the horizon. But even with approval in the next 3 to 5 years, the healthcare system will likely be overwhelmed and patients may have to wait more than 18 months for diagnosis and care, according to a new report from the Rand Corporation. “Our analysis shows the healthcare system is nowhere near prepared to deal with this,” said Soeren Mattke, a senior scientist with Rand and a report author. “We need a drug and infrastructure to deliver it.”


Chicago Tribune – After a bad week, the NFL's concussion protocol comes under scrutiny once again

Six years later, Colt McCoy cannot remember going back into the game, or what happened after he did. In December 2011, McCoy, playing quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, rolled to his left. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison launched his helmet into McCoy's face mask, leaving McCoy flattened on the turf and concussed. On the sideline, doctors inspected his bruised hand. After two plays, coaches sent him back in. When he watched the film a week later, McCoy felt like he was watching another person. 

The Telegraph – Exclusive: Footballers to create a 'brain bank' to deliver evidence into link between sport and dementia

Families of former British footballers have agreed to create a ‘bank’ of donated brains to deliver new and potentially conclusive medical evidence into the link between football and dementia. The distinct tau proteins that are the hallmark of CTE – a devastating strain of dementia that is caused by repeated blows to the head – can only be identified in post-mortem and football’s first case was discovered by the Scottish neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart in the former England striker Jeff Astle.


CNN – Ex-NFL player confirmed as 1st case of CTE in living patient

Lead author Dr. Bennet Omalu confirmed to CNN that the subject of the case was former NFL player, Fred McNeill -- who died in 2015. Omalu first presented these findings exclusively to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2016. McNeill's wife, Tia, and his two sons, Gavin and Fred Jr., told Gupta then, that they saw Fred transform from a fun loving family man at the center of their lives into a man who was dealing with symptoms of memory loss, anger and depression that tore their family apart.

MedicalXpress – Drinking coffee may be associated with reduced risk of heart failure and stroke

Researchers used machine learning to analyze data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, which includes information about what people eat and their cardiovascular health. They found that drinking coffee was associated with decreased risk of developing heart failure by 7 percent and stroke by 8 percent with every additional cup of coffee consumed per week compared with non-coffee drinkers. While many risk factors for heart failure and stroke are well known, the researchers believe it is likely that there are as-yet unidentified risk factors.

NIH – Opioid treatment drugs have similar outcomes once patients initiate treatment

“Studies show that people with opioid dependence who follow detoxification with no medication are very likely to return to drug use, yet many treatment programs have been slow to accept medications that have proven to be safe and effective,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. “These findings should encourage clinicians to use medication protocols, and these important results come at a time when communities are struggling to link a growing number of patients with the most effective individualized treatment.” 

NPR – A Baby Exposed To Zika Virus Is Doing Well, One Year Later

Researchers have since learned that while Zika infection is dangerous, about 94 percent of babies born to women infected with Zika appear to be normal at birth. Yariel is one of them. He's a curious little 1-year-old — calm and smiley, with a head full of curls. Looking at him, it's impossible to know that his mother had Zika when she was pregnant. Yariel is a patient of Dr. Sarah Mulkey, a fetal neonatal neurologist at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., who is studying babies born to women with Zika to try and find out how OK they really are.

Science – Lab-grown ‘minibrains’ are revealing what makes humans special

Ever since Alex Pollen was a boy talking with his neuroscientist father, he wanted to know how evolution made the human brain so special. Our brains are bigger, relative to body size, than other animals', but it's not just size that matters. Pollen and others are experimenting with brain "organoids," tiny structured blobs of lab-grown tissue, to detail the molecular mechanisms that govern the folding and growth of the embryonic human brain. 

Wired – Inside the Race to Hack the Human Brain

In an ordinary hospital room in Los Angeles, a young woman named Lauren Dickerson waits for her chance to make history. She’s 25 years old, a teacher’s assistant in a middle school, with computer cables emerging like futuristic dreadlocks from the bandages wrapped around her head. Three days earlier, a neurosurgeon drilled 11 holes through her skull, slid 11 wires the size of spaghetti into her brain, and connected the wires to a bank of computers. Now she’s caged in by bed rails, with plastic tubes snaking up her arm and medical monitors tracking her vital signs. She tries not to move.


Futurism – We’ll Soon Have the Power to Decode and Manipulate the Human Brain

A brain-computer interface might allow a paralyzed person to move a robotic arm, or a person with a spinal cord injury to control a motorized wheelchair. But what if there’s a malfunction that causes an unforeseen accident? Is the user or the technology at fault? An article in the journal Nature describes an imminent future where “it will be possible to decode people’s mental processes and directly manipulate the brain mechanisms underlying their intentions, emotions and decisions.” In order to make sure that this technology helps those who need it without disastrous consequences, there is a need for rules and regulations.

Splinter – Why Working Women With Migraines Suffer in Silence

I had my first migraine when I was 10, on vacation with my dad at a resort in France. The migraine got serious while I was trying to drink a Coke float. The fake whipped cream on top, which I would under normal circumstances squirt straight into my mouth, revolted me. I threw up a couple hours later, after waking in the dark, crying. I haven’t had a Coke float since. Since I was 16, I’ve averaged one full-blown migraine a week. Yet my situation is unimaginably good compared to many, many other women with migraine, because of one key difference: paid leave.

The Conversation – The two obstacles that are holding back Alzheimer’s research

Despite continued progress and renewed hope that some therapies now in human trials will modify the course of the disease, the initial optimism of neuroscientists like me has been significantly tempered by reality. Numerous therapies, most with sound scientific basis, have been tested and shown to be ineffective in humans with symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Like the war on cancer, the war on Alzheimer’s disease is not going to be won in a single glorious “battle.”

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