Innovations in Neuroscience

Enhancing Sleep After Brain Injury May Reduce Brain Damage and Cognitive Decline

Enhancing sleep after a head injury may help prevent some damage to brain cells, according to a new rat study in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers at University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland found that enhancing the slow-wave cycle of sleep after head trauma minimized damage to axons and helped preserve normal brain function. In the study, 25 rats received a blow to the prefrontal cortex. One-third of the injured rats were sleep-deprived for short periods of time, another group was treated with sodium oxybate, a drug used to induce a slow-wave sleep-like state in narcolepsy patients, and a third group received placebo.

One day after injury and continuing for the next five, researchers modulated the animals’ sleep. Employing electroencephalography (EEG) recordings during treatment, they confirmed that the animals experienced slow-wave sleep enhancement as a result of treatment. Afterward, the rats took a memory test, and the team examined their brains for axonal damage, focusing on areas involved in learning and memory, including the hippocampus. They found that rats receiving treatments to enhance slow-wave sleep were better able to recognize familiar objects than the untreated rats. In addition, levels of a biomarker for diffuse axonal injury were reduced nearly 80 percent in animals that had experienced enhanced sleep compared to untreated rats. The findings suggest that slow-wave sleep administered immediately after a brain injury helps block axon damage and preserve normal brain function, according to investigators, who also noted that further study is needed. n

Source: Society for Neuroscience

Further Reading: http://www.jneurosci.org

Neurology in the Media

Alzheimer’s in Prose

On World Poetry Day last month, PBS Newshour featured a story about a series of poems by writer Beth Copeland about her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Entitled “Falling Lessons,” the poems structurally recreate the process of Alzheimer’s disease, with each successive poem erasing parts of the previous poems. “I became interested in the idea of erasure, because I felt that the process of erasure is a reflection of what happens to people when they have memory loss,” she said. Posted in the Poetry section of Newshour’s site, the story contains the first entry in the series as well as a short film set to the poem.

Source: PBS Newshour

Further Reading: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/