Dementia can be prevented

The Lancet commission on “Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care” has identified essential measures that will reduce the risk of the disease.

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Dementia causes memory loss, language and speech difficulties, social isolation, mood changes, agitation, delusions

In an article published last July in The Lancet, an expert commission has defined the main risk factors for dementia and has pointed out the most effective methods to prevent and treat this disease.

Dementia affects nearly 50 million people in the world (47 millions were estimated in 2015). As our longevity increases, this number is bound to triplicate by 2050 if we don’t take any preventive measure. Dementia generally occurs in people older than 65 years.

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In 2015 about 47 million people suffered from dementia, a figure bound to raise if we don’t promptly adopt any measures to prevent it

The key point, as stated by the expert panel, is that “dementia is by no means an inevitable consequence of reaching retirement age, or even of entering the ninth decade”.

In other words: dementia can be prevented.

Prevention requires reducing dementia risk factors during the whole course of life.

What is dementia?

There are different types of dementia, with distinct physical causes and biological features. The most common forms of the disease are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, mixed dementia (with traits of more than one forms), dementia associated with brain traumas, infections, alcohol abuse.

The most common symptoms of dementia are: cognitive decline (memory loss, difficulties in speech and in critical thinking), frequent mood changes from depression to euphoria, agitation, psychosis (delusions, delirium, sometimes hallucinations), sleep disturbances.
Continue reading “Dementia can be prevented”

Deep brain stimulation: Temporal Interference stimulation, a new, non-invasive technique to treat nervous and psychic disorders

A new technique allows the stimulation of precise areas deep in the brain by applying electric currents on the scalp, with no need to introduce electrodes into the brain. Its potential therapeutic applications include the treatment of both movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, and psychic conditions, from depression to bipolar disorders.

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Image: modified from Wikimikedia Commons Blausen.com staff 

Abnormal electrical activity in the brain underlies various motor and affective disorders. The former include Parkinson‘s disease, tremor, dystonia (characterized by uncontrollable and repetitive muscle contractions); among the latter are depression, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders.

These conditions are normally treated with drugs that modulate the electrical activity of the brain through a chemical stimulus (i.e. the drug molecule acting on brain cells); unfortunately, drugs always produce upsetting side effects that are often quite severe.

Transcranial electrical stimulation

A new therapy employs electrical currents to modulate the electrical activity of structures located deep inside the brain. We’re not talking, of course, about the comeback of electroshock (have you seen “Somebody flew over the cuckoo’s nest?”), but about applying currents of a specific intensity to specific brain areas.

In this way, the treatment is limited to a certain region (as opposed to diffuse over a large area), and secondary effects are significantly reduced or even eliminated.

Today this therapy, called transcranial electrical stimulation, is administered by introducing electrodes into the brain near the target area to be treated: clearly this Continue reading “Deep brain stimulation: Temporal Interference stimulation, a new, non-invasive technique to treat nervous and psychic disorders”

When the mind wanders

Scientists have identified cerebral circuits that are activated (or deactivated) any time we engage in spontaneous thought and let our minds wander freely. These circuits are turned on also when we are involved in imagining and creating something, or when we dream while asleep. Interestingly, they are perturbed in people suffering from various conditions including anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and others.

In the future, researchers hope to develop new therapies for psychological and behaviour disorders that will employ electromagnetic waves to regulate the activity of these brain networks efficiently and without drugs.

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by lausitzer-sterngucker.de

You are working on something, your attention absorbed by the task, when suddenly you realize that your mind has wandered off and you’re now thinking of something totally different: tonight dinner party, the vacation you long for, that great book waiting for you on your bedside table…

Your mind just took off from the job and is now wandering.

When the mind wanders, we become detached from things happening around us, and enter a mental state that reflects the content of our rambling thoughts: desire, confidence, fear, wonder…

Mind-wandering is an example of spontaneous thought, like dreaming and creativity.

Spontaneous thought is “free” thought: it is free of those constraints that we usually apply to our thinking to make it logic and goal-directed.

In mind-wandering, we let our thought unfold Continue reading “When the mind wanders”

What is STRESS?

We spontaneously react to adverse conditions by becoming alert and focused, and by taking action to overcome the difficulties we face and regain a state of quietness and balance.

If the adversities persist and we are unable to find a solution, we slowly exhaust our physical and mental resources and become weak and frustrated: in other words we become stressed.

Chronic psychophysical stress is a state of physical and mental exhaustion that arises when we are unable to resolve a difficult situation, despite various attempts.

Stress hits the body and the mind: we feel tired but often can’t sleep enough, and we feel hopeless.

Stress impacts our immune system and opens the doors to physical illnesses: from cardiovascular disease, to digestive and respiratory dysfunctions, depression and even cancer.

Several behavioral techniques that do not imply the use of drugs are very effective in preventing and treating psychophysical stress.

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References

“Stress revisited: A critical evaluation of the stress concept”, J.M. Koolhaas et al., Neurosci Biobehav Rev 35, 1291-1301 (2009).

“Glucocorticoid regulation of inflammation and its functional correlates: from HPA axis to glucocorticoid receptor dysfunction” M.N. Silverman, E.M. Sternberg, Ann NY Acad Sci 1261, 55-63 (2012).

“The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication” A. Mariotti, Future Sci OA 1, FSO23 (2015).

“Stress-induced immune dysfunction: implications for health” R. Glaser, and J.K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Nature Rev Immunol 5, 243-251 (2005).