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Neuroscience (SNI) Blog

'Neuroscience Institute' Neuroscience (SNI) posts

What is ALS and why did it inspire ice bucket challenges at Swedish?

Employees of Swedish Cherry Hill Outpatient Rehabilitation and Neurology Departments took the plunge and participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of ALS and funding for ALS research.  (Click here to see their video on Facebook.)




Before the ALS clinic team takes the ice bucket challenge
 
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), most commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which affects the motor neurons responsible for voluntary movements and muscle power. As the disease progresses, individuals living with ALS may lose their ability to move and control the muscles of their extremities, torso, head and mouth which can make completion of basic activities such as walking, eating, talking and even breathing very difficult.

Unfortunately, the disease has no cure and only one medication has been approved for the treatment of ALS. Research is making strides towards understanding the underlying physiology and genetic makeup of the disease. Because of  ...

Treatment options for hemifacial spasm

Hemifacial spasm is the involuntary contractions of the muscles of the face, those innervated by the facial nerve (VII). The facial spasms are intermittent and occur on one side of the face only. Hemifacial spasm can involve the upper or lower half of the face and may progress to involve the entire half of the face. The intensity and frequency of these symptoms can increase over time and can persist even during sleep. Hemifacial spasm can be associated with vestibular dysfunction and cochlear dysfunction.
 
Hemifacial spasm is usually more common in women. The most common cause of hemifacial spasm is ...

Drug treatment and weight loss restores vision in a blinding disorder linked to obesity

As many as 100,000 Americans suffer from a disorder called pseudotumor cerebri or idiopathic intracranial hypertension that can cause permanent blindness and chronic headaches. The disease primarily strikes obese women of reproductive age with symptoms of daily headaches, visual symptoms including transient blurring or blindness, double vision, and pulsating noises in one’s head. Up to 5-10% of these patients may have permanent visual loss due to optic nerve damage.
 
A recent national trial funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute has shown that a common water pill, acetazolamide, combined with a moderate but comprehensive dietary and lifestyle modification plan can restore and preserve vision in women with this disease. I was one of the local investigators for this trial along with Dr. Eugene May.
 
The symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri are thought to be due to high spinal fluid pressure around the optic nerves and brain due to impaired reabsorption of spinal fluid that is continuously being produced within the brain. This results in chronic headaches and swelling of the optic nerves that can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated. Patients typically are ...

Pituitary Tumors: Diagnosis and Management

The Swedish Pituitary Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute is one of the country’s largest centers for treating disorders of the pituitary gland – including pituitary tumors. The center brings together endocrinologists, neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists to offer a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of these tumors.
 
Tumors in the pituitary gland are quite common and many of them are so small they may go undetected throughout life. Although 99 percent of pituitary tumors are benign, the associated symptoms can be
debilitating, especially with hormone-secreting tumors. Regardless of the type of tumor, individuals with pituitary tumors may experience headaches, blurred vision, impotence/infertility, and mood changes.

Debilitating Facial Pain May Be Trigeminal Neuralgia

All pain can be frightening, but when patients describe sharp, electric-type pain in their face, the cause may be Trigeminal Neuralgia, a treatable pain syndrome manifesting as unilateral facial pain that can be severe in intensity. The pain occurs in one or more distributions of the trigeminal nerve. The pain usually lasts for several seconds to several minutes followed by periods of being pain free. Trigeminal neuralgia pain can be triggered by sensory stimuli to the face including talking, brushing teeth, eating, and touching the face. In some cases, there is no trigger. The annual incidence of trigeminal neuralgia is approximately 4 in 100,000. The initial workup for trigeminal neuralgia may include an MRI of the brain to rule out brain tumor or MS plaques.

In many cases, trigeminal neuralgia is caused by compression of the facial nerve most commonly by the superior cerebellar artery or the anterior inferior cerebellar artery, although trigeminal neuralgia can be due to compression by a persistent permanent trigeminal artery or odioectatic basilar artery. Other causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia can include demyelinating disease (such as multiple sclerosis) and tumor. In some cases, the cause of Trigeminal Neuralgia is  ...

Study Makes Waves in Treating Essential Tremor

The treatment of neurologic disease took a major step forward this past week with the publication of a clinical trial that used ultrasound waves to treat Essential Tremor.  Essential tremor affects about 10 million people in the USA and can be extremely disabling. For patients that fail medical therapy invasive surgical options are considered, including deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS surgeries involve drilling a hole in the skull and implanting an electrode into structures deep in the brain to turn off the unwanted signals that cause the tremor.

A study of 15 patients lead by Dr. Jeff Elias (University of Virginia) was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week and describes how researchers used ultrasound waves to effectively treat Essential tremor non-invasively – no cutting or drilling:

 

Treating Arteriovenous Malformations to Remove the Risk of Rupture

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain is a relatively rare condition – occurring in less that 1 percent of the population. It can, however, be neurologically morbid in young adults ages 15 to 20, who are at the greatest risk for hemorrhage and least likely to exhibit symptoms. About 2 to 4 percent of all AVMs each year hemorrhage.

An AVM’s tangled mass of blood vessels, which forms in utero, produces multiple direct connections between arteries and veins without the normal, intervening capillaries. Symptoms often are not present until later in life or until after the AVM ruptures.

A small number of congenital syndromes, such as Sturge-Weber, Rendu-Osler-Weber, ataxia telangiectasia, and Wyburn-Mason, are associated with AVMs. Once formed, extrinsic factors, such as arterial shunting, growth factors and intracranial hemorrhage, may alter the size and shape of an AVM.

The most common types of AVMs are:

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