Recently in Brain Sciences Category

Tired and hungry: how lack of sleep hurts your diet

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Early morning meetings sometimes mean a doughnut from the coffee cart as you start up the computer, just as a late night out usually translates into a quick stop at the sub shop or pizza parlor. Turns out, these not-so-great food choices are a pretty universal response to lack of sleep.

New research out of New York City's St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center shows a link between a lack of sleep and craving unhealthy foods like sugars, fats and high-carb options.

Doctors surveyed 16 healthy young adults and found brain regions associated with reward and motivation were highly activated when participants hadn't slept well.

Michael Howell, M.D., a sleep medicine physician and associate professor in the University of Minnesota's Medical School, isn't surprised by the results.

"In all spheres of our lives, judgment is impaired when sleep-deprived," says Howell. "Without enough sleep, you're less able to avoid temptation."

There are a lot of other ways a lack of quality sleep can impact our waistlines, according to Howell.

Drug-induced psychosis doesn't need to be deadly

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BLOGb - CrystalMeth.jpg(Photo of crystal meth, courtesy Radspunk via creative commons license.)

A naked man, apparently high on drugs, was killed this week in Miami while attacking another man on the street. Police believe the suspect, Rudy Eugene, 31, had been high on "bath salts," a synthetic drug similar to LSD. When confronted by officers, Eugene growled at their intrusion and seemed to be unaffected by the shots fired into his body until officers were able to kill him.

Psychosis induced by drugs, particularly chemical-based drugs, is a common response to overdosing. Emergency room physicians and psychiatric care centers handle psychotic episodes on a regular basis.

"There are a number of drugs, illicit or prescription, which can lead to a psychotic episode," says S. Charles Schulz, M.D., professor and head of the University of Minnesota's Department of Psychiatry. Drugs most commonly associated with it are LSD, methamphetamine and Adderall.

While the attack in Miami is not a common expression of these induced psychotic episodes, there are a variety of symptoms that can indicate psychosis. Paranoia, frenzy and other erratic behavior can all indicate a person is heading toward significant psychosis.

So what's happening inside the body? According to Schulz, it depends on the drug ingested by the patient. Amphetamine-based drugs, like meth, stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain, which increases paranoia and takes away the capacity for self-control. These patients can usually be treated with anti-psychotic medication. LSD, however, stimulates the serotonin in the brain, and results in patients generally needing a calm and safe place to come down from the high.

Physicians are pushing to understand the "ramping up" phase of a psychotic episode. In theory, catching someone during this building time could help stop a patient from hurting himself or others.

The University of Minnesota is focused on caring for people experiencing a psychotic episode. Check out their website to learn more about the First Episode Psychosis Program, a program dedicated to comprehensive assessment and treatment of psychotic illness.

U of M professor awarded grants for children's brain research

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Dr. Bernadette Gillick was recently awarded a variety of grants to fund her upcoming study on the use of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Pediatric Hemiparesis, a form of non-invasive brain stimulation for children that can help combat damage to the brain's nerve endings caused by stroke. bernadette.jpg

Dr. Gillick joined the UMN faculty as a tenure-track assistant professor in October 2011. The New Faculty MMF Grant, CTSI Pre-K Grant and CTSI BDAC award recipient has spent the past three years working to improve current rehabilitation techniques.

"Our future studies will incorporate rehabilitation therapy techniques with the use of non-invasive brain stimulation," explains Gillick. "The overarching goal is to improve hand function for children who have hemiparesis, or weakness on one side of their body."

The new form of rehabilitation that Dr. Gillick will explore is an example of research at the University of Minnesota's Medical facilities.

Series of workshops can help with stress on farm

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Image: AHC LogoA new U of M online workshop looks to help ag producers and their families cope better with stress. Katherine Slama, Medical School, explains that agricultural work and rural living can be very stressful for everyone and that the 11 new workshops can help everyone deal with the stress.

Read on Minnesota Farm Guide

Life Transitions May Trigger Eating Disorders

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Image: US News and World Report LogoA lack of support following traumatic life events such as relationship problems, the loss of a loved one, abuse and sexual assault can trigger eating disorders. Jerica Berge, Medical School and University of Minnesota Physicians, discusses the findings of her study.

Read on US News & World Report