NIDA Releases New Guide on Treating Teen Substance Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is releasing new resources to help parents, health care providers and substance abuse treatment specialists treat teens who are struggling with drug abuse. The resources also provide advice on identifying and interacting with teens who may be at risk.

The resources are being released in advance of National Drug Facts Week, January 27 to February 2, when communities and schools around the country will host events to allow teens to learn how drugs affect the brain, body and behavior.

Full story of new guide at drugfree.org

High Good, Low Bad Cholesterol Levels Are Healthy for Brain, Too

High levels of “good” cholesterol and low levels of “bad” cholesterol are correlated with lower levels of the amyloid plaque deposition in the brain that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, in a pattern that mirrors the relationship between good and bad cholesterol in cardiovascular disease, UC Davis researchers have found.

“Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL — good — and lower levels of LDL — bad — cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain,” said Bruce Reed, lead study author and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The relationship between elevated cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been known for some time, but the current study is the first to specifically link cholesterol to amyloid deposits in living human study participants, Reed said.

“Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease,” he said.

Full story of cholesterol levels and the brain at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Music Brings Memories Back to the Injured Brain

In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Amee Baird and Séverine Samson outline the results and conclusions of their pioneering research in the recent issue of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Although their study covered a small number of cases, it’s the very first to examine ‘music-evoked autobiographical memories’ (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

In their study, Baird and Samson played extracts from ‘Billboard Hot 100’ number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient’s lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked.

Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%-71%) and controls (48%-71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

Full story of music bringing back memories at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

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

Scientists Find Brain Region That Helps You Make Up Your Mind

One of the smallest parts of the brain is getting a second look after new research suggests it plays a crucial role in decision making.

A University of British Columbia study published in Nature Neuroscience says the lateral habenula, a region of the brain linked to depression and avoidance behaviors, has been largely misunderstood and may be integral in cost-benefit decisions.

“These findings clarify the brain processes involved in the important decisions that we make on a daily basis, from choosing between job offers to deciding which house or car to buy,” says Prof. Stan Floresco of UBC’s Dept. of Psychology and Brain Research Centre (BRC). “It also suggests that the scientific community has misunderstood the true functioning of this mysterious, but important, region of the brain.”

In the study, scientists trained lab rats to choose between a consistent small reward (one food pellet) or a potentially larger reward (four food pellets) that appeared sporadically. Like humans, the rats tended to choose larger rewards when costs — in this case, the amount of time they had to wait before receiving food-were low and preferred smaller rewards when such risks were higher.

Full story of the brain and decisions at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education