Federal Government Rarely Penalizes Nursing Homes for Overusing Antipsychotic Drugs

Although the federal government began a campaign in 2012 to get nursing homes to reduce their use of antipsychotic drugs, it rarely penalizes institutions that continue to use the drugs at high rates, NPR reports.

These drugs, designed to treat people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, can be deadly for older people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Despite this risk, almost 300,000 nursing home residents across the country are given antipsychotic medications, according to the article.

In Texas, more than one-quarter of nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs, compared with a nationwide average below 20 percent. The state has conducted a series of trainings for nursing home employees to teach them about alternatives to giving residents antipsychotic medications. Employees are encouraged to learn enough about residents to determine why they exhibit challenging behaviors, and to find ways to deal with these behaviors without antipsychotic drugs.

Full story of nursing homes and overuse of anti-psychotics at drugfree.org

Resisting temptation: It’s all in your brain

If I offer you a bag of potato chips today or a box of chocolate truffles next week, which would you choose? Neuroscientists are interested in exploring what happens when the brain must choose between receiving a reward immediately or in the future, especially when waiting may result in a prize you like better.

A seahorse-shaped structure in the brain called the hippocampus is involved in recalling events from the past, and imagining them in the future. A new study in the journal PLOS Biology explores what role the hippocampus plays when a person has to decide between getting a reward now or later.

This study looked at healthy individuals as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition characterized by memory impairment and associated with atrophy of the hippocampus, and a different brain condition called frontotemporal dementia.

The French study, led by Mael Lebreton at the Brain and Spine Institute (ICM) in Paris, looked at time-dependent choices involving money, as well as “episodic” options such as food, sports or cultural events.

In the first experiment, researchers gave 15 participants a series of decisions about choosing one reward or another, where one of the hypothetical prizes is given now, and the other later. Some options were described in labeled photos, and some as just text. Photos gave participants a visual image, but with text, the subjects were forced to imagine what they would get. Participants tended to choose the delayed rewards when they imagined them with more detail.

Full story of resisting temptation at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Fish Oil Could Help Protect Alcohol Abusers from Dementia

A Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study suggests that omega-3 fish oil might help protect against alcohol-related dementia.

Previous studies have shown that long-term alcohol abuse increases the risk of dementia. The Loyola study found that in the brain cells of rats exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and cell death.

The study by Michael A. Collins, PhD, and colleagues was reported Sept. 8 at the 14th Congress of the European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism in Warsaw.

An earlier analysis by Collins and Loyola colleague Edward J. Neafsey, PhD, which pooled the results of 143 studies, found that moderate social drinking may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. (Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.)

It appears that small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia. But too much alcohol overwhelms the cells, leading to inflammation and cell death.

Full story of fish oil and alcohol abusers at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Video game may help aging brain

Zoom! Move that car! Get those road signs!

A specially designed video game, called NeuroRacer, isn’t just for fun, although scientists believe that’s one of its key ingredients.

Researchers say this game may help enhance certain cognitive abilities in older adults, such as multitasking and attention span.  Results from a study on the game’s effects were published today in the journal Nature.
Background

We know that older adults experience declines in cognitive control abilities, including a decrease in sustained attention and working memory.

Previous research has also shown that older adults often experience difficulties in responding to interference – i.e. distractions from irrelevant information or multitasking attempts, said senior study author Adam Gazzaley, professor of neurology and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

An ongoing trend in dementia research is the emphasis on an active lifestyle to prevent or delay memory loss.  A study of Swedish twins, for instance, suggests that women who participate in intellectual and cultural activities may have a lower dementia risk.  Exercise at midlife for both sexes has also been found to be protective against dementia.

Full story of video games to help an aging brain at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Oprah and Einstein photos offer clues about early dementia

You are looking at a woman’s face; the contours and features seem so familiar.  You see the billowing brown hair, the broad smile, the almond-shaped eyes.  You may even be able to describe things about her:  Famous talk show host, actress in “The Color Purple,” philanthropist.

You feel a familiar pang of frustration because the name seems to be in your grasp, but you cannot come up with it.

The person, of course, is Oprah Winfrey.  The inability to conjure the name of such a famous face, for some people, is one of several symptoms of a brain disease called primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

The disease “affects a person’s ability to communicate,” said Tamar Gefen, a doctoral candidate at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, adding that the disease attacks language centers in the brain.

“Slowly, over time a person loses the ability to name, comprehend, write and communicate,” Gefen said.

Full story of Oprah and Einstein’s clues on early dementia at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education