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research-and-clinical-trials

Research snapshot: New tools could help prevent relapse behavior in opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is a crippling problem in society, with an estimated 9 percent of Americans abusing opiates at some point in their life. In Minnesota, opiate overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2000.

Overcoming addiction is extremely challenging, and the risk of relapse persists. A new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neuroscience identified a potential target for preventing morphine relapse in mice, which brings researchers closer to providing a way for recovering addicts to stay drug-free.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Shining a light on the brain: optogenetics and epilepsy

An estimated 3 million Americans have epilepsy, but most of the fundamental questions about the condition have yet to be answered. In fact, up to 40 percent of epilepsy patients don’t achieve seizure control with traditional treatment using medication.

UMN expert Esther Krook-Magnuson, Ph.D., has taken a targeted approach to studying epilepsy. She uses a technique called optogenetics, which uses light to alter brain activity, and could be used to stop seizures.

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expert-perspectives

Boo! How the body reacts to fear

“Fear initiates our fight-or-flight response,” says William Engeland, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Medical School. “When you’re exposed to a new and potentially frightening situation, our brain perceives it as a threat, and activates an automatic physical response.”

So what is the response? How does the body react to fear?

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research-and-clinical-trials

Research Snapshot: A new approach to programming deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s

About 100,000 people worldwide undergo deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and tremor  when traditional medications or treatments fail to provide symptom improvement or relief. It is also being explored as a treatment for other neurological and psychiatric disorders for which medical therapy has not been effective in alleviating symptoms.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves stimulating portions of the brain through a small implanted device. After the device is implanted, a clinician programs the device to target each patient’s individual symptoms. They establish settings that determine how much stimulation is needed to improve symptoms, a process called programming.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Research snapshot: New neuroimaging method to research the aging brain

Testing for age-related metabolic decline and loss of cognitive function could soon be seeing improvements.

By developing new ultrahigh field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technologies, researchers at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota, recently investigated whether new developments could aid in better understanding aging and metabolic disorder in human brains.

Following the establishment of an in vivo assay of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) – a test that works well for human brain application – U of M researchers have developed a new testing technique.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Research Snapshot: Unmatched insights into deep brain stimulation through MRI

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a procedure that is used to treat movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease, tremor and dystonia. To improve symptoms, a DBS lead (insulated wire) is surgically inserted deep within the brain in sites known to control movement.

Electrical impulses are sent from the neurostimulator, also known as a brain pacemaker, to the lead implanted in the brain. The stimulation changes the pattern of electrical activity in the brain into a more normal pattern, thereby improving symptoms and returning more normal movement to patients.

Choosing the target location for the lead is of critical importance. Standard protocol among physicians around the world is to use a brain atlas developed from two French women who donated their brains to science many years ago. From there physicians superimpose the patient’s own brain MRI images and calculate a plan to implant the electrodes in the brain.

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