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what's the buzz

Sleep disorder linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

A sleep disorder that causes people to act out their dreams is a predictor of brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, a new research has found.

"Rapid-eye-movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) is not just a precursor but also a critical warning sign of neurodegeneration that can lead to brain disease," said associate professor and lead author Dr John Peever from the University of Toronto in Canada.

"In fact, as many as 80 to 90 per cent of people with RBD will develop a brain disease," said Peever.

The disturbance occurs during the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep and causes people to act out their dreams, often resulting in injury to themselves and/or bed partner, researchers said.

In healthy brains, muscles are temporarily paralysed during sleep to prevent this from happening.

"It's important for clinicians to recognise Rapid-eye-movement (REM)) behaviour disorder as a potential indication of brain disease in order to diagnose patients at an earlier stage," said Dr John Peever, lead author and associate professor.

"This is important because drugs that reduce neurodegeneration could be used in RBD patients to prevent (or protect) them from developing more severe degenerative disorders," Peever said.

His research examines the idea that neurodegeneration might first affect areas of the brain that control sleep before attacking brain areas that cause more common brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

Peever said he hopes the results of his study lead to earlier and more effective treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

The research was published in the journal Trends in Neuroscience.

Researchers find new drug to treat depression

There is good news for people suffering from depression as researchers have now identified a potentially powerful new treatment for depression in the form of a neuroprotective drug known as P7C3.

What the researchers also identified in the course of the study was the mechanism by which ghrelin, a hormone with natural anti-depressant properties works inside the brain.

"By investigating the way the so-called 'hunger hormone' ghrelin works to limit the extent of depression following long-term exposure to stress, we discovered what could become a brand new class of anti-depressant drugs," said Jeffrey Zigman, an associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the US.

Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach and intestines, has several widely known functions, including the ability to stimulate appetite.

That ghrelin exhibited natural anti-depressant effects was discovered in a 2008 study led by Zigman.

The current findings identify ghrelin's ability to stimulate adult hippocampal neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons, in animal models.

The researchers also found that the regenerative process inside the hippocampus is crucial in limiting the severity of depression following prolonged exposure to stress.

"We found that P7C3 exerted a potent anti-depressant effect via its neurogenesis-promoting properties," said Andrew Pieper, an associate professor at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

The study appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Pain may curb sex drive in women, study reveals

Do not blame her for no action tonight as women in pain often say no to sex as pain from inflammation or some other reason greatly reduces sexual motivation in female than male, research reveals.

In a first such study, researchers from McGill University and Concordia University in Montreal have investigated the direct impact of pain on sexual behaviour in mice.

"We know from previous studies that women's sexual desire is far more dependent on context than men's - but whether this is due to biological or social/cultural factors, such as upbringing and media influence, is not known," said Jeffrey Mogil, a psychology professor at McGill.

Our finding that female mice, too, show pain-inhibited sexual desire suggests there may be an evolutionary biology explanation for these effects in humans - and not simply a sociocultural one, he added.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers placed mice in a mating chamber divided by a barrier with openings too small for male mice to squeeze through.

This enabled the females to decide whether, and for how long, to spend time with a male partner.

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