Researchers develop blood test to detect concussions in children

“This development of a blood test for concussion needs wider dissemination as a part of our cultural discussion about head impact sports.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Researchers develop blood test to detect concussions in children

CBS News (11/11, Welch) website reports that “a simple blood test can accurately detect concussions in children, a new study finds, and researchers hope one day it could be used on the field to help coaches, trainers and parents develop a plan of action on the spot.” The test “accurately identified the presence of brain injuries 94 percent of the time.” Lead study author Dr. Linda Papa, an emergency medicine physician said in a statement that this blood test “could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury.” The study was published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.

HealthDay (11/11, Reinberg) reports that the blood test measures levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which is “found in cells that surround neurons in the brain,” and is released into the bloodstream when the brain is injured.

JAMA 11.11.15

Severe influenza may double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

“The Cleveland Clinic Wellness newsletter wrote this post about an article in Motion Disorders. I include this for your interest because Parkinson’s Disease is complicated. Research of exceptional breadth and depth is being done in the US to try to find causes so better treatments can be fashioned. This effort is a reason to be proud of US medical research. If PD is your interest, please read this statement from the National Institutes of Health dated November 2015.

Among known associations is that a high Vitamin D blood level is associated with lower incidence of PD. “In some cases, environmental factors may also have a protective effect. Population-based studies have suggested, for example, that people with high levels of vitamin D in their blood have a much lower risk of developing PD compared with people with very low concentrations of vitamin D. Further research is need to determine if vitamin D deficiency puts people at higher risk for PD, but such findings suggest the possibility that vitamin D supplements may have a beneficial effect. However, there may be genetic factors that cause people with low vitamin D levels to have higher rates of PD in which case vitamin D supplements would not be helpful.”

The NIH has worded this so the public won’t take Vitamin D supplements only to lower the risk of PD. However low Vitamin D, i.e.,hypovitaminosis D, is common in my practice experience. Low vitamin D is easy and inexpensive to treat. Get your Vit D blood level done at least once to be sure you’re in the middle of the normal range, about 50 ng/DL. Bill Chesnut, MD


Here’s another reason to get your annual flu shot: Severe influenza may double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Getting your annual flu shot is always a good idea, but new research finds a particularly convincing reason to inoculate yourself against the virus. According to a study published in the journal Movement Disorders, people who contract a severe case of the flu may double their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. Parkinson’s is an incurable nervous system disorder that causes shaking, stiffness and, in later stages, loss of balance. Cases of the flu are considered severe when there are complications involved or when they require medical treatment, especially hospitalization. Most people get better on their own within a week or two. While anyone at any age can suffer serious flu complications, those at greatest risk include: people over the age of 50, children between 6 months and 2 years, women who are more than 3 months pregnant during flu season, anyone living in a long-term care facility, and anyone with chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.

“Tune out” to stay sharp!

“My experience strongly recommends turning off the screens to be happy and interesting. Ophthalmologists now describe “flat eyeballs” from looking at a screen too many hours a day. Look it up. It’s true.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Tune out to stay sharp! Replace screen time with brain-building activities.

Cleveland Clinic_November 3, 2015
Screen time spawns plenty of hand wringing among parents, but the less-is-more wisdom applies to people well beyond the Sesame Street set. Recent research found that young adults who watched four or more hours of television daily scored lower on cognitive tests in middle age, which can set the stage for conditions such as Alzheimer’s down the road. It may be less of a “this is your brain on screens” effect, and more about what you’re not doing. Whatever your age, staying active — both above the shoulders and below — is critical for brain health. Try crowding out your usual screen time with activities — emphasis on active — that get your neurons firing: a morning walk, a family hike, a good laugh with an old friend, or a dance class with someone you love. And beware of bedtime screen seduction. (It’s never as good as the real thing anyway!) Quality sleep is critical for your brain; it essentially detoxifies your noggin while you snooze!
You may also want to know:

9 ways to boost your brain health 

Get moving for a healthy memory

Stay sharp with 20% off our brain health products 


Effect of Early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Midlife Cognitive Function.

“This is exceptional research of 3,247 adults studied prospectively while studying Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults. Get up and dance everybody!”  Bill Chesnut, MD.

Midlife thinking ability and exercise. “Effect of Early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Midlife Cognitive Function”

Tina D. Hoang, MSPH1; Jared Reis, PhD2; Na Zhu, MD, MPH3; David R. Jacobs Jr, PhD3; Lenore J. Launer, PhD4; Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD5; Stephen Sidney, MD5; Kristine Yaffe, MD6,7

JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 02, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2468

Importance Sedentary behaviors and physical inactivity are not only increasing worldwide but also are critical risk factors for adverse health outcomes. Yet, few studies have examined the effects of sedentary behavior on cognition or the long-term role of either behavior in early to middle adulthood.

Objective To investigate the association between 25-year patterns of television viewing and physical activity and midlife cognition.

Design, Setting, and Participants Prospective study of 3247 adults (black and white races; aged 18-30 years) enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study (March 25, 1985, to August 31, 2011). Data analysis was performed June 1, 2014, through April 15, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures We assessed television viewing and physical activity at repeated visits (≥3 assessments) over 25 years using a validated questionnaire. A 25-year pattern of high television viewing was defined as watching TV above the upper baseline quartile (>3 hours/d) for more than two-thirds of the visits, and a 25-year pattern of low physical activity was defined as activity levels below the lower, sex-specific baseline quartile for more than two-thirds of the of the visits. We evaluated cognitive function at year 25 using the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), Stroop test, and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test.

Results  At baseline, the mean (SD) age of the 3247 study participants was 25.1 (3.6) years, 1836 (56.5%) were female, 1771 (54.5%) were white, and 3015 (92.9%) had completed at least high school. Compared with participants with low television viewing, those with high television viewing during 25 years (353 of 3247 [10.9%]) were more likely to have poor cognitive performance (<1 SD below the race-specific mean) on the DSST and Stroop test, with findings reported as adjusted odds ratio (95% CI): DSST, 1.64 (1.21-2.23) and Stroop test, 1.56 (1.13-2.14), but not the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, adjusted for age, race, sex, educational level, smoking, alcohol use, body mass index, and hypertension. Low physical activity during 25 years in 528 of 3247 participants (16.3%) was significantly associated with poor performance on the DSST, 1.47 (1.14-1.90). Compared with participants with low television viewing and high physical activity, the odds of poor performance were almost 2 times higher for adults with both high television viewing and low physical activity in 107 of 3247 (3.3%) (DSST, 1.95 [1.19-3.22], and Stroop test, 2.20 [1.36-3.56]).

Conclusions and Relevance High television viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worse midlife executive function and processing speed. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that these risk behaviors may be critical targets for prevention of cognitive aging even before middle age.


Brain scans to catch depression before it starts.

“This brief article is about the neuroimaging research at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. Functional MRI shows the patterns of activity in the brain. It is revealing differences in brain patterns that are predictive. This link is the research at McGovern; the whole area is astonishing.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Brain scans to catch depression before it starts

By Ben Gruber, 2.4.16.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (Reuters) – Researchers at MIT’s McGovern Institute are using the latest advances in brain imaging to identify children at high risk of depression before the debilitating and sometimes deadly disorder sets in.

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It’s a serious mental disorder that affects every aspect of a person’s life and in severe cases could lead to suicide.

The study involved two groups of children, one at high risk of depression due to family history and a control group with kids at low risk.

Kids from both groups were scanned to map the network pathways in their brains. The question was if the researchers could find differences in brain activity that would be an indicator for a higher risk of depression.

“They answer is there are very great differences. We saw differences that were striking in a number of circuits including those that change in depression, including those involved in feelings, other parts that are involved in thinking. The additional thing besides seeing these differences were that the differences were so strong child by child that that we were very close to perfect with being able to categorize from a brain scan itself whether a child was at risk or not,” said John Gabrieli, a professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.

The goal going forward is to follow these children and see who among the high risk group goes on to develop depression, tracking changes in their brain function along the way .

“Obviously the children that go on to depression the more we can identify them well the more we are hopeful that we can get preventive treatments going. Not waiting for them to be suffering but helping them beforehand,” said Gabrieli

“So we want to learn both to identify early children who are at true risk, help them before they struggle and learn from those that are resilient what is different about them because that might be a hint about how to help the children that are not resilient,” he added.

The researchers say a better understanding of how depression affects the brain will ultimately lead to better treatment options for those that are most at risk.

Here is the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT:

This is some of the brain research they do:

Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults

“About the safety of eating seafood: Seafood consumption has been a concern because of the increased levels of mercury in fish. This study shows that moderate intake of seafood may produce a decreased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.” 

The best way to absorb the several findings of this critical study is this YouTube video by one of the authors at Rush Medical Center in Chicago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network. First rate research.  .” Bill Chesnut, MD


Martha Clare Morris, ScD1; John Brockman, PhD2; Julie A. Schneider, MD, MPH3,4,5; Yamin Wang, PhD1; David A. Bennett, MD3,4; Christy C. Tangney, PhD6; Ondine van de Rest, PhD7

JAMA. 2016;315(5):489-497. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451.

Importance  Seafood consumption is promoted for its many health benefits even though its contamination by mercury, a known neurotoxin, is a growing concern.

Objective  To determine whether seafood consumption is correlated with increased brain mercury levels and also whether seafood consumption or brain mercury levels are correlated with brain neuropathologies.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Cross-sectional analyses of deceased participants in the Memory and Aging Project clinical neuropathological cohort study, 2004-2013. Participants resided in Chicago retirement communities and subsidized housing. The study included 286 autopsied brains of 554 deceased participants (51.6%). The mean (SD) age at death was 89.9 (6.1) years, 67% (193) were women, and the mean (SD) educational attainment was 14.6 (2.7) years.

Exposures  Seafood intake was first measured by a food frequency questionnaire at a mean of 4.5 years before death.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Dementia-related pathologies assessed were Alzheimer disease, Lewy bodies, and the number of macroinfarcts and microinfarcts. Dietary consumption of seafood and n-3 fatty acids was annually assessed by a food frequency questionnaire in the years before death. Tissue concentrations of mercury and selenium were measured using instrumental neutron activation analyses.

Results  Among the 286 autopsied brains of 544 participants, brain mercury levels were positively correlated with the number of seafood meals consumed per week (ρ = 0.16; P = .02). In models adjusted for age, sex, education, and total energy intake, seafood consumption (≥ 1 meal[s]/week) was significantly correlated with less Alzheimer disease pathology including lower density of neuritic plaques (β = −0.69 score units [95% CI, −1.34 to −0.04]), less severe and widespread neurofibrillary tangles (β = −0.77 score units [95% CI, −1.52 to −0.02]), and lower neuropathologically defined Alzheimer disease (β = −0.53 score units [95% CI, −0.96 to −0.10]) but only among apolipoprotein E (APOE ε4) carriers. Higher intake levels of α-linolenic acid (18:3 n-3) were correlated with lower odds of cerebral macroinfarctions (odds ratio for tertiles 3 vs 1, 0.51 [95% CI, 0.27 to 0.94]). Fish oil supplementation had no statistically significant correlation with any neuropathologic marker. Higher brain concentrations of mercury were not significantly correlated with increased levels of brain neuropathology.

Conclusions and Relevance  In cross-sectional analyses, moderate seafood consumption was correlated with lesser Alzheimer disease neuropathology. Although seafood consumption was also correlated with higher brain levels of mercury, these levels were not correlated with brain neuropathology.