Souvenaid and Alzheimer’s Disease

Souvenaid, in its second clinical trial, has been proven to help the memory of people who suffer from mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Results of the trial were given at the 4th International Conference on Clinical Trials in Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) by Philip Scheltens, MD, PhD in San Diego in early November. Scheltens is head of the Alzheimer Center at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Souvenaid has a unique mixture of nutrients that work by stimulating the connections between nerves, also known as synapses. Losing these connections is what many experts think is responsible for losing memory in Alzheimer’s patients.  Studies demonstrate that the nutrients in Souvenaid can help grow new synapses in the brain. People taking Souvenaid daily over three months had improved scores on memory tests.

Scheltens is cautiously optimistic about the new findings. More research needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn, but he thinks it is a step in the right direction.

Souvenir II was completed at  27 centers in six countries in Europe to see if the effects from Souvenir I would last for eight weeks. This study used additional measures to test for recall and also measured brain activity. Of 259 subjects, over 91% finished the study.

Memory was tested at the beginning, at 12 weeks, and at 24 weeks. The composite score was gotten from the Rey Audtiory Verbal Test which tests instant recall, delayed memory, and recognition. The Wechlser Scale which tested verbal association was also used.

Over the 24 weeks, the total scores from the Souvenaid group were much higher than those from the control group. Besides just looking at memory scores, they are attempting to analyze the electroencephalogram and magnetoencephalogram data, which may help figure out the influence  Souveniad has on synapse building in patients with Alzehimer’s disease and dementia.

CTAD is sponsored by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the European Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium (EADC).

Meditation is often associated with words such as relaxation, peacefulness, and calm. Researchers and scientists have for some time now endorsed the value of meditation. Not only do people who practice meditation feel calm and happy, they also report enhanced cognition and memory abilities. Although researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital did not include those with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), they sought to study the benefits of mindfulness meditation training and in my opinion, this can certainly apply to the AD population.

A recent study that was supported by the Institutes of Health, The Mind and Life Institute and the British Broadcasting Company studied the changes in the brain after an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. The findings from the study have been published in the Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, January 30 issue. It reports that this is the first time that changes in the brain and related improvements have been documented due to meditation over a period of time.

Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) were taken two weeks before and after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program Program was conducted, for both the control group and the group that practiced mindfulness meditation. This form of mediation focuses on the feelings, emotions and state of mind in a non judgmental manner. The study group conducted meditation exercises for about 27 minutes daily. Their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire showed a marked improvement when compared with those made before the study began.

MRI after the mindfulness meditation program focused on parts of the brain that have shown improvement in earlier studies. The images showed an increase in the grey matter density of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that affects memory and learning. Similarly, brain parts that are related with compassion, self understanding and introspection also increased in size.

The participants reported reduced stress and this was correlated with the reduction in density at the amygdala, the part of the brain that affects the stress and anxiety that an individual experiences. However the insula, which is believed to be associated with self awareness, did not show any changes. More research in this direction may be required.  The MRI of the control group showed no changes in the same period of time.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but mindfulness meditation may aid Alzheimer’s disease patients in dealing with AD more effectively. Britta Hölzel, PhD, is first author of the paper and a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Giessen University in Germany. James Carmody, PhD, of the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School is the co-author.

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UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center

As stated in the previous post, today there are no reliable tests to determine conclusively if a person has Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, there are several breakthrough tests on the horizon that have us hopeful that soon we may have an accurate test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. In the last post, I covered what’s happening at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI) at West Virginia University and Inverness Medical Innovations. In this post I will report on the breakthrough test for Alzheimer’s disease at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

At UCLA, researchers have developed a blood test that would measure the amount of amyloid beta that is being absorbed by immune cells in the blood. If the immune system isn’t adequately clearing amyloid beta, it may indicate Alzheimer’s risk. According to Gen News, the UCLA scientists took blood samples and isolated monocytes including amyloid beta. The monocytes were incubated overnight with amyloid beta, which was labeled with a fluorescent marker. Using flow cytometry, the investigators then measured the amount of amyloid beta ingested by the immune cells.

The 18 Alzheimer’s disease patients in the study showed the least uptake of amyloid beta. The healthy control group, which consisted of 14 university professors, had the highest uptake.

The method was able to distinguish the Alzheimer’s disease patients with adequate sensitivity and specificity and the results were found to be positive in 94% of patients and negative for the entire control group. Additionally, the data was positive in 60% of participants who suffered from mild cognitive impairment.

Milan Fiala, M.D., is the lead author of the UCLA study, which appeared in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Neuroimmunology.

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