Research for Brain Disorders

Participating in Cognitive Health Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other organizations conduct and support a variety of studies looking at cognition and the brain. These studies look at how the brain changes with age, diseases and conditions that may affect the brain, and how to best reduce risk of disease and keep the brain healthy and functioning with age.

The National Institute on Aging at NIH, for example, supports clinical trials focused on age-related cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, and dementia. These trials are testing possible ways to preserve or improve thinking abilities and functioning in older people and to avoid diseases and conditions that cause cognitive impairment and dementia.

Interventions to treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, such as frontotemporal disorders and Lewy body dementia, are underway. The research goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease seeks to find effective treatments by 2025.

Participating in Cognitive Health Research

Finding answers and effective treatments will require all kinds of people to participate in clinical trials and studies. All of these studies depend on one thing—volunteers. What can you do to help brain health research? First, learn more about clinical research:

  • Read about participating in clinical research.
  • Visit the NIA website for videos, a list of research centers, and other resources.
  • Go to NIH's Clinical Research Trials and You for more details.

Next, see if participation in a clinical trial might be a good fit for you or someone you know. To find clinical trials and studies in your area:

  • Sign up for a registry or matching service to find opportunities to participate. Visit NIH's ResearchMatch , as well as the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry , Brain Health Registry , and GeneMatch .
  • Search for clinical trials on age-related cognitive change, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.

See more resources about cognitive health.

Source: NIA (NIH)1

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Research for Brain Disorders

Glymphatic system: Scientists have discovered a system that drains waste products from the brain. The finding may lead to new ways to treat brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Our bodies remove dead blood cells and other waste products through a network of vessels called the lymphatic system. The brain, however, uses a different method. Cerebrospinal fluid cleanses brain tissue. Based on previous research, scientists suspected that nutrients and waste were carried away through a slow process called diffusion.

In a new study, scientists used a method called 2-photon laser scanning microscopy to analyze the movement of cerebrospinal fluid in living mouse brains. To their surprise, the researchers found that the fluid flowed along a series of channels surrounding blood vessels. They named this new system the “glymphatic system” because it is similar to the body’s lymphatic system but managed by cells in the brain called glial cells.

The scientists speculated that glitches in the glymphatic system might lead to the buildup of harmful waste in the brain. To test this idea, they injected a protein called amyloid beta into the brains of both healthy mice and mice with a faulty glymphatic system. The protein is known to play a role in human Alzheimer’s disease. Normal mice cleared amyloid beta rapidly from brain tissue. Mice with faulty glymphatic systems had much slower protein removal.

“This work shows that the brain is cleansing itself in a more organized way and on a much larger scale than has been realized previously,” says Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “We’re hopeful that these findings have implications for many conditions that involve the brain, such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.”

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)2

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Ultrasound: Opening the Blood Brain Barrier with Ultrasound

Focused ultrasound could be used to temporarily open the blood brain barrier to let gene therapy treatments reach the brain.

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BRAIN Initiative: Why is this such an exciting time in brain research?

Mapping brain structures and functions is a vibrant field of science. The President's BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) announced earlier this year is an extraordinary opportunity for the federal government and the private sector to work together to develop a comprehensive understanding of how the human brain works. It will create new tools, technologies, and research strategies for studying the brain. Scientists might gain a better understanding of mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, which could lead to new therapies to treat and, perhaps, cure neurological disorders, including PD.

Causal Research for Brain Disorders

Mobile phone exposure: Do mobiles affect brain function?

The MTHR's set of volunteer studies of brain function is one of the largest carried out anywhere. The studies found exposure to radio frequency fields generated by mobile phones had no detectable effect on brain function. They looked at factors such as memory and response times, and found no changes.

Source: NHS Choices UK3

Basic Research for Brain Disorders

A Better Map of One of the Most Important Places in the World

When you want to learn more about a place, it helps to have a detailed map. This is true for scientists who study the brain.

Fortunately, a better map of the brain is now available.

As reported in the journal Nature, an NIH-funded team of researchers is bringing a map of the human brain into sharper focus.

The team started with cutting-edge brain images from hundreds of healthy young men and women. They subdivided the brain’s outer layer called the cerebral cortex into 180 specific areas in each hemisphere.

This is remarkable because before this, almost 100 of those areas had never been described.

To create the map, Drs. Matthew Glasser and David Van Essen of the Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, and their colleagues used information from the National Institutes of Health’s Human Connectome Project.

This new high-resolution brain map will help increase our understanding of the human brain. In the future, a better map of the brain will also help with the diagnosis and treatment of many brain disorders.

For more scientific information on the project, NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research .

NIH Support: National Institute of Mental Health; NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)4

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  1. Source: NIA (NIH): health/ participating-cognitive-health-research
  2. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): issue/ nov2012/ capsule1
  3. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ mobile-phone-safety/ faqs/ 
  4. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall16/ articles/ fall16pg28.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.