New Study Suggests Low Vitamin D Causes Damage to Brain

A new study led by University of Kentucky researchers suggests that a diet low in vitamin D causes damage to the brain.

In addition to being essential for maintaining bone health, newer evidence shows that vitamin D serves important roles in other organs and tissue, including the brain. Published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the UK study showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain, and many different brain proteins were damaged as identified by redox proteomics. These rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory.

“Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age how low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain,” said lead author on the paper Allan Butterfield, professor in the UK Department of Chemistry, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences, faculty of Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and director of the Free Radical Biology in Cancer Core of the Markey Cancer Center. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”

Full story of vitamin D and brain damage at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

NFL and ex-players reach deal in concussion lawsuit

Thousands of former football players and their families reached a settlement with the National Football League on Thursday in a lawsuit that put concussions, and their impact on the brain, under the microscope.

The deal calls for the NFL to pay $765 million to fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation, medical research for retired NFL players and their families, and litigation expenses, according to a court document filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the judge assigned to the case, which involved more than 4,500 plaintiffs.

“It’s been a struggle to get to this point, but today I will say I’m very proud that the NFL has decided to stand up for all the former players who are suffering from brain injuries,” Kevin Turner, a former NFL running back who has been diagnosed with ALS, said during a teleconference.

“Today is so important for those who are … hurting. This will bring help for them today.”

The case mediator, former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, called it “a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football.”

“My hope is that any players or ex-players that are suffering, or begin to suffer, from symptoms of dementia, will be taken care of in a respectable manner through this settlement,” said Chris Dronett, one of the plaintiffs, whose husband Shane Dronett committed suicide in 2009 at age 38.

Full story of NFL’s concussion lawsuit at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Ability of Brain to Protect Itself from Damage Revealed

The Brain Protects Itself from DamageThe origin of an innate ability the brain has to protect itself from damage that occurs in stroke has been explained for the first time.

The Oxford University researchers hope that harnessing this inbuilt biological mechanism, identified in rats, could help in treating stroke and preventing other neurodegenerative diseases in the future.

‘We have shown for the first time that the brain has mechanisms that it can use to protect itself and keep brain cells alive,’ says Professor Alastair Buchan, Head of the Medical Sciences Division and Dean of the Medical School at Oxford University, who led the work.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature Medicine and were funded by the UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.

Full story of the brains own protection at Science Daily

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Surgery Destroys Parts of Brain’s “Pleasure Centers” in Attempt to Cure Addiction

Surgery Destroys Brain Pleasure CenterA controversial surgical procedure being studied in China attempts to cure addiction by destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers,” Time.com reports. The research is being conducted on alcoholics and people addicted to heroin.

The procedure risks permanently damaging a person’s ability to have longings and feel joy, the article notes.

The Chinese Ministry of Health banned the procedure in 2004. Some doctors were allowed to continue to perform the operation for research purposes. In a recent study published in the journal Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, researchers called the surgery “a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs.” They note more than half of the 60 patients in the study had lasting side effects. These included memory problems and loss of motivation. After five years, 47 percent of participants were still drug free.

That compares with a 30-40 percent rate of significant recovery with conventional addiction treatment, the news outlet states. Experts feel the small increase in success rates with the surgery is not worth the large risk.

Full story of brains pleasure center at DrugFree.org

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Brain model may help build human-like robot

Brain Model May Help Build Human RobotIt goes without saying that the human brain is complex, and would be hard to build from scratch. But researchers are looking to simulate how the brain works so that more human-like artificial intelligence can be created and we can better understand damage to our own brains.

Chris Eliasmith of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, led research published in the journal Science on a brain model called SPAUN – the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network.

SPAUN lives inside a computer, can view images with a camera-like eye and can draw responses to questions. For example, show it the number "4" and it will write its own "4." It can even mimic the style of the numeral.

Both in the brain and in SPAUN, neurons communicate by changing their voltages, and the pattern of these voltage "spikes" is what carries information from one cell to another, Eliasmith said. The receiving cell generates a voltage of its own if it receives a particular voltage.

SPAUN has 2.5 million spiking neurons. Neurons are the cells – the individual components – that make up the brain. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, so there’s still a long way to go in terms of replicating its full capacity.

Full story of building human like robot at CNN Health

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education