A Smartphone App To Loose Weight

Psychologists at the University of Exeter (UK) have found that less than ten minutes a day of ‘brain training’ using a game they have devised can slow impulses to reach for unhealthy snacks, and reduce calorie intake. Using neuroscience and lab trials to devise a proven method of curbing unhealthy food intake, Professor Natalia Lawrence’s Food Trainer app is being launched this week free to the public, in a month when people traditionally make resolutions to lose weight and cut down on junk foodDr Natalia Lawrence is a cognitive neuroscientist at Exeter University. She designed the app after using brain imaging to study how the brain’s reward system responded to pictures of unhealthy food.

food trainer

It’s very exciting to see that our free and simple training can change eating habits and have a positive impact on some people’s lives,” she said. “It’s a tool to help people make healthier choices. In an age where unhealthy food is so abundant and easily available and obesity is a growing health crisis, we need to design innovative ways to support people to live more healthily. We are optimistic that the way this app is devised will actually encourage people to opt for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables rather than junk food.

Among those to have used the training is Fiona Furness, a studios manager for a charity providing studios for artists, who went from around 11 stone to around nine stone after taking part in a trial of the food training game. She said the “pounds just melted way”. “I used to feel really guilt about my bad snacking habits. I’d often be rushing about, and I’d grab something high calorie and unsatisfying – often a pack of crisps. I’d be hungry again really soon afterwards so it became a vicious cycle. The results have been remarkable,” she explained. “These days, if I am feeling peckish I’ll go for a banana or a pack of almonds. That’s the food I’m craving. I’m now closer to nine stone than 11 – the pounds just melted away over eight or nine months without me even noticing. The weight loss wasn’t really my goal though – I feel younger and more energetic. Perhaps I’m particularly susceptible to this kind of brain training, but it has been transformative for me.

A study of 83 adults showed that people who played the game online just 4 times in one week lost weight and ate an average of 220 kcal less per day – roughly equivalent to a chocolate-iced doughnut.The academics found in trials that playing the game without distractions for a few minutes a day can train the brain to control impulses to reach for chocolate, cakes, crisps or alcohol. The release of the free app will allow dieters or those who want to cut consumption of junk food or alcohol to try it and in the process generate more anonymous data to help psychologists measure how effective an app version of the brain-training programme can be.

The basis of the app is published research showing that people are more inclined to choose foods or drink high in sugar and fat because they activate the brain’s reward system, stimulating the release of dopamine and endorphins, which can produce feelings of pleasure and make the person want more. Research has found that the more people activate brain areas associated with reward when they see foods, the more they eat and the more weight they gain. Once triggered, these impulses can be hard to control.

Source: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/

How To Grow Mini Human Brains

A*STAR’s Scientists in Singapore have made a big leap on research on the ‘mini-brain’. These advanced mini versions of the human midbrain will help researchers develop treatments and conduct other studies into Parkinson’s Disease  (PD) and ageing-related brain diseases. These mini midbrain versions are three-dimensional miniature tissues that are grown in the laboratory and they have certain properties of specific parts of the human brains. This is the first time that the black pigment neuromelanin has been detected in an organoid model. The study also revealed functionally active dopaminergic neurons.

The human midbrain, which is the information superhighway, controls auditory, eye movements, vision and body movements. It contains special dopaminergic neurons that produce dopamine – which carries out significant roles in executive functions, motor control, motivation, reinforcement, and reward. High levels of dopamine elevate motor activity and impulsive behaviour, whereas low levels of dopamine lead to slowed reactions and disorders like PD, which is characterised by stiffness and difficulties in initiating movements.

DIFFERENCIATION OF HUMAN EMBRIONIC

Also causing PD is the dramatic reduction in neuromelanin production, leading to the degenerative condition of patients, which includes tremors and impaired motor skills. This creation is a key breakthrough for studies in PD, which affects an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide. Furthermore, there are people who are affected by other causes of parkinsonism. Researchers now have access to the material that is affected in the disease itself, and different types of studies can be conducted in the laboratory instead of through simulations or on animals. Using stem cells, scientists have grown pieces of tissue, known as brain organoids, measuring about 2 to 3 mm long. These organoids contain the necessary hallmarks of the human midbrain, which are dopaminergic neurons and neuromelanin.

Assistant Prof Shawn Je from Duke-NUS Medical School’s Neuroscience & Behavioural Disorders Programme said, “It is remarkable that our midbrain organoids mimic human midbrain development. The cells divide, cluster together in layers, and become electrically and chemically active in three-dimensional environment like our brain. Now we can really test how these mini brains react to existing or newly developed drugs before treating patients, which will be a game changer for drug development.”

Jointly led by Prof Ng Huck Hui from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Assistant Prof Shawn Je from Duke-NUS Medical School, this collaborative research between GIS, Duke-NUS, and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is funded by the National Medical Research Council’s Translational Clinical Research (TCR) Programme In Parkinson’s disease (PD) and A*STAR. Other collaborators are from the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Nanyang Technological University.

Source: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/

Nanoparticle Drug Reverses Parkinson’s

As baby boomers age, the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is expected to increase. Patients who develop this disease usually start experiencing symptoms around age 60 or older. Currently, there?s no cure, but scientists are reporting a novel approach that reversed Parkinson’s-like symptoms in rats. Their results, published in the journal ACS Nano, could one day lead to a new therapy for human patients.
parkinson's
Rajnish Kumar Chaturvedi, Kavita Seth, Kailash Chand Gupta and colleagues from the CSIRIndian Institute of Toxicology Research note that among other issues, people with Parkinson’s lack dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that helps nerve cells communicate with each other and is involved in normal body movements. Reduced levels cause the shaking and mobility problems associated with Parkinson’s. Symptoms can be relieved in animal models of the disease by infusing the compound into their brains. But researchers haven’t yet figured out how to safely deliver dopamine directly to the human brain, which is protected by something called the blood-brain barrier that keeps out pathogens, as well as many medicines.
The researchers packaged dopamine in biodegradable nanoparticles that have been used to deliver other therapeutic drugs to the brain. The resulting nanoparticles successfully crossed the blood-brain barrier in rats, released its dopamine payload over several days and reversed the rodents’ movement problems without causing side effects.

Source: http://www.acs.org/

Targeting Parkinson’s Disease At Its Roots

Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston have developed a gene therapy approach that may one day stop Parkinson’s disease (PD) in it tracks, preventing disease progression and reversing its symptoms. Each year, 60,000 adults are newly diag­nosed with Parkinson’s dis­ease, a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­order that causes a slew of symp­toms, including tremors, slowed move­ments, and changes in speech. The drugs cur­rently avail­able to treat PD patients help them regain some of the motor con­trol lost through the dis­ease, but don’t treat the under­lying cause, said Bar­bara Waszczak, a pro­fessor of phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences.

parkinson's
Parkinson’s is caused by the death of dopamine neu­rons in a key motor area of the brain called the sub­stantia nigra,” said Waszczak. If you want to treat PD at its roots, she added, then you have to stop the death of these neural cells. In research reported ear­lier this week at the Exper­i­mental Biology 2013 con­fer­ence in Boston, Waszczak and grad­uate stu­dent Brendan Harmon pro­posed a treat­ment approach that does exactly that. What’s more, the method is simple and easy to use.“If we can get at it in the early stages of the dis­ease, when patients are just starting to develop symp­toms, then we might be able to stop the dis­ease from get­ting worse or at least delay the onset of severe symp­toms,” Waszczak explained.

Source: http://www.northeastern.edu/
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