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DEPARTMENTS: News Scan

Research Highlights

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Folk Acid Supplements May Benefit Children Taking an Epilepsy Drug

For children who take carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol), a popular anti-seizure medication, a folk acid supplement may help prevent a potentially serious adverse side effect that makes them vulnerable to infection.

Studies have found that carbamazepine causes a loss of white blood cells that helps protect against infection. In one study a team of researchers led by Asadi Pooya, M.D., of the Pediatrics department at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Pars, Iran, wanted to know whether giving folic acid along with the medication would prevent this. Folic acid – one of the B vitamins – helps boost blood cell production.

Forty-one children with epilepsy were given the medication alone, and 41 were given it along with a folic acid supplement. The children who took the supplement had better blood count levels than those who did not.

The researchers concluded that folic acid supplementation is a safe way to improve blood count measures in these children, but more studies are needed to determine its exact effect on the blood and the ideal amount to take. (American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting, 2005).

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Can People with Alzheimer's Disease Make Health Care Decisions?

People with very mild Alzheimer's disease can make competent decisions about their treatment, but those in whom the disease has progressed may no longer be able to do so, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

“These results are yet another reason why people should consult a doctor if they notice any warning signs of Alzheimer's in themselves or a loved one,” says study author Jason Karlawish, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“An early diagnosis can help assure that patients can participate in decisions about their care.”

Researchers gave 48 people with very mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease information about the benefits and risks of a hypothetical treatment, then asked them to decide whether they wanted it. Their responses were compared with those of 108 Alzheimer's disease care-givers. Individuals with the milder form of the disease made competent care decisions, but this skill diminished in people in a moderate stage of the disease.

In addition, people with Alzheimer's disease who knew their diagnosis, symptoms and the likely course of the disease remained competent to make decisions longer. (Neurology, May 10, 2005, www.neurology.org)

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Depression Drug Eases Pain from Diabetic Neuropathy

A medication for depression is effective in treating diabetic neuropathy, the pain from nerve damage caused by diabetes, according to a new study

The research study, which involved 358 people, compared the results of those who took the medication duloxetin (Cymbalta) with those taking a placebo, or inactive substance. The study found that the drug was safe and effective.

The medication was selected because it is one of the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs block serotonin, a chemical in the brain that transmits pain messages to the body

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Unlike other existing drugs that relieve pain from diabetic neuropathy, duloxetin does not cause weight gain. However, there have been no head-to-head studies comparing duloxetin with other pain therapies for diabetic neuropathy

The Food and Drug Administration must approve duloxetin for use as a pain reliever for diabetic neuropathy before it can be prescribed for this purpose.

The study was funded by Lilly Research Laboratories, which manufactures duloxetin. (American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting, 2005).

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Why Do People with High Blood Pressure Experience Memory Problems?

High blood pressure, known medically as hypertension, can cause the blood vessels of the brain to narrow, restricting the flow of blood, which causes memory loss. Now, J. Richard Jennings, Ph.D., and his team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, believe they know why this occurs. Memory tests were given to 37 people with high blood pressure and to 59 people with normal blood pressure. While they were performing the tests, researchers used a special type of imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) to measure the blood flow to their brains. They found that people with high blood pressure had less blood flow to parts of the brain involved in memory – the hippocampus – and more blood flow to other regions of the brain. Despite this, however, the two groups performed equally on memory tests.

The researchers think that the people with high blood pressure could compensate for this difference in blood flow However, since untreated high blood pressure progressively damages the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain, the brains of these individuals eventually will no longer be able to compensate and memory loss will occur.

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For More Information in Patient Pages

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The American Academy of Neurology journal Neurology publishes special Patient Pages on these News Scan topics. Go to www.neurology.org, click on Patient Pages and scroll down to “Untreated Hypertension Can Lead to Memory Loss by Cutting Down on Blood Flow to the Brain” (April, 2005) and “Complementary/Alternative Medicines for Epilepsy” (August, 2003).

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To Learn More…

More information about these News Scan topics is available from these organizations:

American Academy of Neurology Foundation

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The Brain Matters

www.thebrainmatters.org

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Epilepsy

American Epilepsy Society (860) 586-7505 www.aesnet.org

Epilepsy Foundation

(800)332-1000 www.epilepsyfoundation.org

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Alzheimer's Disease

www.thebrainmatters.org

Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) (800) 438-4380 www.alzheimers.org

Alzheimer's Association (800) 272-3900 www.alz.org

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Neuropathy

Neuropathy Association (212)692-0662 www.neuropathy.org

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Stroke

American Stroke Association (888) 4-STROKE, (888) 478-7653 www.strokeassociation.org

National Stroke Association (800) 787-6537 www.stroke.org

The differences in blood flow between people with hypertension and people with normal blood pressure may explain why those with hypertension may develop memory problems.

High blood pressure also causes stroke and other serious health problems, so this is another reason why it is important for people to have their blood pressure checked regularly. (Neurology, April 26, 2005, wwwneurologyorg)

©2005 American Academy of Neurology

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