Kicking, yelling in sleep can increase the risk of neurological diseases later

Agencies
December 29,2018

Washington, Dec 29: Kicking and yelling during sleep? You may want to know the risk factors of a violent sleep disorder.

According to a recent study, taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder.

The study was published in the journal of ‘Neurology’, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study also found that men are more likely to have the disorder.

REM sleep is the dream state of sleep. During normal REM sleep, your brain sends signals to prevent your muscles from moving. However, for people with REM sleep behavior disorder, those signals are disrupted. A person may act out violent or action-filled dreams by yelling, flailing their arms, punching or kicking, to the point of harming themselves or a person sleeping next to them.

"While much is still unknown about REM sleep behavior disorder, it can be caused by medications or it may be an early sign of another neurologic condition like Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy. Identifying lifestyle and personal risk factors linked to this sleep disorder may lead to finding ways to reduce the chances of developing it,” said study author Ronald Postuma.

The study looked at 30,097 people with an average age of 63. Researchers screened participants for a variety of health conditions and asked them about lifestyle, behaviour, social, economic and psychological factors.

In addition, every participant was asked, "Have you ever been told, or suspected yourself, that you seem to act out your dreams while asleep?"

Researchers then identified 958 people, or 3.2 percent, with possible REM sleep behavior disorder, after excluding participants with Parkinson's disease, dementia, Alzheimer's disease or sleep apnea.

Researchers found those with the disorder were over two-and-a-half times as likely to report taking antidepressants to treat depression, with 13 percent of those with the disorder taking them compared to 6 percent of those without the disorder. People with the disorder were also two-and-a-half times as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They were twice as likely to have mental illness, and over one-and-a-half times as likely to have psychological distress.

Other findings were that men were twice as likely as women to have possible REM sleep behaviour disorder, 59 percent of those with the disorder were male, compared to 42 percent of those without the disorder.

People with possible REM sleep behaviour disorder were 25 percent more likely than those without the disorder to be moderate to heavy drinkers, with 19 percent of those with the disorder moderate to heavy drinkers compared to 14 percent of those without the disorder. They had slightly less education, an average of 13.2 years of education compared to an average of 13.6 years for those without the disorder. They also had lower income and were more likely to have smoked.

"Our research does not show that these risk factors cause REM sleep behavior disorder, it only shows they are linked. Our hope is that our findings will help guide future research, especially because REM sleep behavior disorder is such a strong sign of future neurodegenerative disease. The more we understand about REM sleep behavior disorder, the better positioned we will be to eventually prevent neurologic conditions like Parkinson's disease,” concluded Postuma.

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Physical stress on the job linked with brain, memory decline in older age: Study

Agencies
July 24,2020

Colorado, Jul 24: A new study has found that physical stress in one's job may be associated with faster brain ageing and poorer memory.

Aga Burzynska, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and her research team connected occupational survey responses with brain-imaging data from 99 cognitively normal older adults, age 60 to 79. They found that those who reported high levels of physical stress in their most recent job had smaller volumes in the hippocampus and performed poorer on memory tasks. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is critical for memory and is affected in both normal ageing and in dementia.

Their findings were published this summer in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience under the research topic 'Work and Brain Health Across the Lifespan.'

"We know that stress can accelerate physical ageing and is the risk factor for many chronic illnesses," Burzynska said. "But this is the first evidence that occupational stress can accelerate brain and cognitive ageing."

She added that it is important to understand how occupational exposures affect the ageing of our brains.

"An average American worker spends more than eight hours at work per weekday, and most people remain in the workforce for over 40 years," Burzynska said. "By pure volume, occupational exposures outweigh the time we spend on leisure social, cognitive and physical activities, which protect our ageing minds and brains."

Physical demands at work

Burzynska explained that the association between "physical stress" and brain/memory were driven by physical demands at work. These included excessive reaching, or lifting boxes onto shelves, not necessarily aerobic activity. This is important because earlier work by Burzynska and her colleagues showed that leisure aerobic exercise is beneficial for brain health and cognition, from children to very old adults. Therefore, the researchers controlled for the effects of leisure physical activity and exercise.

As expected, leisure physical activity was associated with greater hippocampal volume, but the negative association with physical demands at work persisted.

"This finding suggests that physical demands at work may have parallel yet opposing associations with brain health," Burzynska explained. "Most interventions for postponing cognitive decline focus on leisure, not on your job. It's kind of unknown territory, but maybe future research can help us make some tweaks to our work environment for long-term cognitive health."

She added that the results could have important implications for society.

"Caring for people with cognitive impairment is so costly, on economic, emotional and societal levels," Burzynska said. "If we can support brain health earlier, in middle-aged workers, it could have an enormous impact."

The researchers considered and corrected for several other factors that could be related to work environment, memory and hippocampus, such as age, gender, brain size, educational level, job title, years in the occupation and general psychological stress.

One piece of the puzzle

"The research on this topic is so fragmented," Burzynska said. "One previous study linked mid-life managerial experience with greater hippocampus volume in older age. Another showed that taxi drivers had larger hippocampi than a city's bus drivers, presumably due to the need to navigate. In our study, job complexity and psychological stress at work were not related to hippocampal volume and cognition. Clearly, our study is just one piece of the puzzle, and further research is needed."

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data used for the study was collected at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign between 2011 and 2014.

CSU researchers now can collect MRI data with the new 3T scanner at the University's Translational Medicine Institute.

With this new capability, Burzynska, along with Michael Thomas and Lorann Stallones of CSU's Department of Psychology, is launching a new project, "Impact of Occupational Exposures and Hazards on Brain and Cognitive Health Among Aging Agricultural Workers," which will involve collecting MRI brain scans and identifying risk and protective factors that could help the agricultural community age successfully. The project recently obtained funding as an Emerging Issues Short-Term Project from the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU's College of Health and Human Sciences.

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First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing

Agencies
July 15,2020

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the US revved up people's immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday -- as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

No matter how you slice this, this is good news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci's colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream -- molecules key to blocking infection -- at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection, said Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.

There's no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year -- record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart.

There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren't uncommon with other vaccines -- fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. For three participants given the highest dose, those reactions were more severe; that dose isn't being pursued.

Some of those reactions are similar to coronavirus symptoms but they're temporary, lasting about a day and occur right after vaccination, researchers noted.

Small price to pay for protection against COVID, said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a vaccine expert who wasn't involved with the study.

He called the early results a good first step, and is optimistic that final testing could deliver answers about whether it's really safe and effective by the beginning of next year.

It would be wonderful. But that assumes everything's working right on schedule, Schaffner cautioned.

Moderna's share price jumped nearly 15 percent in trading after US markets closed. Shares of the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have nearly quadrupled this year.

Tuesday's results only included younger adults. The first-step testing later was expanded to include dozens of older adults, the age group most at risk from COVID-19.

Those results aren't public yet but regulators are evaluating them. Fauci said final testing will include older adults, as well as people with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus and Black and Latino populations likewise affected.

Nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world. Candidates from China and Britain's Oxford University also are entering final testing stages.

The 30,000-person study will mark the world's largest study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine so far. And the NIH-developed shot isn't the only one set for such massive U.S. testing, crucial to spot rare side effects. The government plans similar large studies of the Oxford candidate and another by Johnson & Johnson; separately, Pfizer Inc. is planning its own huge study.

Already, people can start signing up to volunteer for the different studies.

People think this is a race for one winner. Me, I'm cheering every one of them on, said Fauci, who directs NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country. Around the world, governments are investing in stockpiles of hundreds of millions of doses of the different candidates, in hopes of speedily starting inoculations if any are proven to work.

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No return to old normal in foreseeable future: WHO chief

Agencies
July 14,2020

UN, Jul 14: There will be no return to the "old normal" for the foreseeable future as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and too many countries were still headed in the wrong direction, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

"The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this," Xinhua news agency quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at as saying a regular briefing on Monday.

He noted that mixed messages from leaders are undermining trust, which is the most critical ingredient of any response, while the only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.

Things are going to "get worse and worse and worse", he warned, unless governments communicate clearly with their citizens and roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives, while populations follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying home when sick.

COVID-19 has been gaining its momentum lately.

According to Tedros, Sunday saw a record of 230,000 cases reported to WHO, of which almost 80% were from just 10 countries and about half from just two countries.

"But it does not have to be this way," he said, asking every single leader, government and individual "to do their bit to break the chains of COVID-19 transmission and end the collective suffering".

To control the disease and get on with people's lives, Tedros said, three things are required. The first is to focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission; the second is to focus on an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.

And the third is a strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.

"We weren't prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now," he added.

At the WHO briefing on Monday, health experts also said there was evidence to suggest that children under the age of 10 were only very mildly affected by Covid-19, while those over 10 seemed to suffer similar mild symptoms to young adults.

To what extent children can transmit the virus, while it appears to be low, remains unknown.

On Tuesday, the number of global coronavirus cases cross the 13 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases currently stood at 13,070,097, while the fatalities rose to 572,411, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world's highest number of infections and fatalities at 3,363,056 and 135,605, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 1,884,967 infections and 72,833 deaths.

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