Weekly Neuroscience Update

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The brains of deaf people reorganize not only to compensate for the loss of hearing, but also to process language from visual stimuli—sign language, according to a study published  in Nature Communications. Despite this reorganization for interpreting visual language, however, language processing is still completed in the same brain region.

Our love of music and appreciation of musical harmony is learnt and not based on natural ability – a new study by University of Melbourne researchers has found.

For many patients with difficult-to-treat neuropathic pain, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can lead to long-term improvement in pain scores and other outcomes, according to a study in the February issue of Neurosurgery.

New brain imaging research from Carnegie Mellon University provides some of the first evidence showing how the brain unconsciously processes decision information in ways that lead to improved decision making. Published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the study found that the brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a new way to influence the vital serotonin signaling system—possibly leading to more effective medications with fewer side effects.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC describe in PLoS ONE how an electrode array sitting on top of the brain enabled a 30-year-old paralyzed man to control the movement of a character on a computer screen in three dimensions with just his thoughts. It also enabled him to move a robot arm to touch a friend’s hand for the first time in the seven years since he was injured in a motorcycle accident.

Researchers have discovered a molecule that accumulates with age and inhibits the formation of new neurons. The finding might help scientists design therapies to prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Wearing a nerve stimulator for 20 minutes a day may be a new option for migraine sufferers, according to new research published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

photo credit: Hindrik S via photopin cc

Easing the pain of migraine attacks

Dr Chad Beyer

Welcome to Part Three of this series on migraine attacks. Today, I am stepping into the world of guest blogging and am delighted to host Inside The Brain’s first guest blogger – Dr Chad Beyer, who explains how the race is on to discover better and safer drugs to diminish migraine pain and prevent future attacks.  

If you belong to the 1 in 4 households in theUnited States or the 11% of the world who suffer from acute migraines, you have about a 50/50 chance of being prescribed a “triptan” or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as aspirin.  Unfortunately for patients, both treatment options are routinely accompanied by severe safety liabilities.  Most people are probably aware of the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side-effects associated with NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors – if you are not, just Google Vioxx or Celebrex!

Collectively, the triptans (exemplified by sumatriptan) are not a squeaky clean class of molecules either and bring with them potential cardiovascular liabilities that make them contraindicated in roughly 20% of migraineurs who are also diagnosed with high blood pressure, angina and several other cardiovascular-related events.  This is due to the non-specific vasoconstriction induced by triptans – which is great in the middle cerebral and meningeal arteries where migraines are suspected to occur but notsomuch in other arteries within the cardiovascular, pulmonary and renal systems.

Therefore, despite the marked advances in our understanding of the complex biology of migraines (i.e., the vasoconstriction and neuropeptide (CGRP) hypotheses) and the discovery of a variety of prescription medicines used to manage the clinical symptoms (the triptans), there remain considerable unmet needs requiring a focused eye towards improving both the efficacy and safety profile of future migraine treatments.

Although commercially-available triptans only work in about 40% of migraine patients, they continue to be the market leader used to combat migraine.  My opinion is that not all migraines are created equal and if you have found a treatment strategy (e.g., a triptan) that works well for you and one that you can tolerate – then by all means, keep doing what you are doing!

However, there is clear evidence that exists to support the discovery and development of therapies designed to work by a novel mechanism to treat migraine.  We (and other companies focused on this problem) are excited about the possibility to bring to the world a novel medication that demonstrates superior safety and possibly efficacy for the millions of patients suffering from acute migraine.  To find out more about our treatment approach for migraine and our company, please visit arielpharma.com to learn more.

For additional information on the prevalence of migraine, current treatment options or to read patient testimonials, the following websites are an excellent starting point:

www.migraineresearchfoundation.org

www.headaches.org

 

Read the first two parts of this series:

The Anatomy Of A Migraine Attack (Part One)

What Happens During A Migraine Attack (Part Two)