The Biggest Brain Breakthroughs of 2019
Our understanding of the brain increases with each passing year, thanks to advances in technology and medicine. We have new methods to study it, improve it and even fix it, but sometimes the big stories get hidden under other news. Here are some of the biggest brain breakthroughs of 2019 that we think are worthy of your attention.
1. Pigs’ brains partially revived after death
In a story that sounds like a science fiction blockbuster movie, scientists managed to revive the brains of 32 dead pigs and keep the brains alive for 10 hours after death. The researchers hooked up the brains to a system called BrainEx, which pumped them full of oxygen, protective chemicals and nutrients. After 10 hours, the brain cells were up and running and performing their jobs: taking up oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. Although there was no consciousness because the neurons weren’t communicating, the cells were definitely alive. The study was published in Nature.
2. Intervention creates neural changes in seniors with cognitive decline
The results of a study just published in the Open BioMedical (OBM) journal Integrative and Complementary Medicine highlight the benefits of a functional medicine approach to slowing cognitive decline in adults over age 55 with clinical cognitive impairment. Researchers examined changes in cognitive skills, brain connectivity, and daily functioning following a multifaceted anti-neuroinflammatory intervention that included physical exercise, mental exercise, a grain-free/sugar-free diet, anti-inflammatory nutritional supplements, sleep optimization, and stress management within the context of a functional medicine practice for five patients with varying levels of cognitive impairment. The key findings include:
- Improvement and stability in cognition. After the nine-month intervention, three of the five patients were no longer classified as cognitively impaired, while a fourth patient improved from moderately-to-severely impaired to mildly impaired. The fifth patient who entered the study with Stage 2 Alzheimer’s remained stable.
- Improved daily functioning and outlook. Patients reported improved memory, attention, mental clarity, as well as increased energy, better mood, and improved outlook on life.
- Changes in brain connectivity visible on fMRI. fMRI analyses revealed changes in the brain that suggest improved efficiency, as well as changes in network connectivity that correlated with changes on neuropsychological tests.
3. Brain implant restores visual perception in the blind
Scientists at UCLA Health have restored visual perception to six blind people with an experimental device implanted in their brains. Although it doesn’t restore normal sight, it helps the users navigate the world by restoring their ability to distinguish light and dark and detect movement. The device works by converting images from a tiny video camera mounted on sunglasses into electrical pulses. These pulses stimulate a set of 60 electrodes implanted on the visual cortex.
4. Biomedical tool lures aggressive brain tumor cells out of the patient
A tool that has been dubbed “the Tumor Monorail” tricks aggressive brain tumors into migrating into an external container by mimicking the physical properties of the brain’s white matter. Although the device doesn’t destroy the tumor, it does help slow its spread. A prototype device lured glioblastoma cells out of the patient, slowing the spread of the tumor and shrinking it by more than 90 percent.
5. Best interventions for ADHD include targeting multiple cognitive deficits
A study published in the Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology has found that mainstream approaches to treating ADHD in children with stimulant medication and behavior therapy do not sufficiently address the multiple cognitive deficits associated with the disorder. The research identified deficits beyond attention, including working memory, long-term memory and processing speed. The researchers found that a clinician-delivered cognitive training intervention enhances motivation and promotes social cognition and self-efficacy while strengthening weak cognitive skills associated with ADHD in children.
6. TBI test wins FDA Breakthrough Device Designation
The U.S. food and Drug Administration has granted BRAINBox Solutions “Breakthrough Device Designation” status for the company’s BRAINBox TBI test. The multi-modality, quantitative test helps in the diagnosis and prognosis of mild TBI (concussion) by combining injury-related blood protein biomarkers with computerized neurological assessments. The test is designed for adults who are treated by an emergency department or urgent care center.
LearningRx, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest one-on-one brain training company in the world. With approximately 70 Centers in the U.S. and locations in 43 countries around the globe, LearningRx has helped more than 100,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier, and perform better. Their on-site and remote training programs partner every client with a personal brain trainer to keep clients engaged, accountable, and on-task—providing more targeted and intensive training than online-only brain exercises. Their pioneering methods have been used in clinical settings for over 35 years and have been verified as beneficial in 12 peer-reviewed research papers and journals. To learn more visit https://www.learningrx.com.