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I copy news articles pertaining to research, news and information for Parkinson's disease, Dementia, the Brain, Depression and Parkinson's with Dystonia. I also post about Fundraising for Parkinson's disease and events. I try to be up-to-date as possible. I have Parkinson's
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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Neuroscience of Meditation: How to Make Your Mind Awesome

By  • 
Let’s look at the science of meditation and cut out the magic and flowery language.Photo: Robson Morgan/Unsplash

So is meditation just another fad that pops up from time to time like bell-bottom jeans? Nope. Research shows it really helps you be healthier, happier and even improves your relationships.
The MBSR program brought the ancient practice of mindfulness to individuals with a wide range of chronic medical conditions from back pain to psoriasis. Kabat-Zinn and colleagues, including his collaborator Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, were ultimately able to demonstrate that MBSR training could help reduce subjective states of suffering and improve immune function, accelerate rates of healing, and nurture interpersonal relationships and an overall sense of well-being (Davidson et al., 2003).
And it’s not some magical mumbo-jumbo at odds with the science of psychology. In fact, it ispsychology. William James, one of the fathers of modern psych, once said this…
While lecturing at Harvard in the early 1900s, James suddenly stopped when he recognized a visiting Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka in his audience. “Take my chair,” he is reported to have said. “You are better equipped to lecture on psychology than I. This is the psychology everybody will be studying twenty-five years from now.”
Last week I posted about the neuroscience of mindfulness. Long story short (and grossly oversimplified): the right side of your brain sees things literally. The left side interprets the data and makes it into stories.
But Lefty screws up sometimes. His stories aren’t always accurate. As the old saying goes, “the map is not the territory.” When you listen too much to Lefty’s stories and not enough to the raw data from the right brain, you can experience a lot of negative emotions. A big chunk of mindfulness is keeping Lefty under control. 
But where does meditation fit into all this? What does sitting cross-legged and focusing on your breath have to do with Lefty, the brain and eternal happiness?
And how the heck do you meditate properly? Maybe you’ve tried it and only ended up taking an unexpected nap, or getting horribly bored, or feeling like your brain is noisier than the front row of a death metal concert.
Let’s look at the science and cut out the magic and flowery language. We’ll hit the subject with Occam’s Chainsaw and get down to brass tacks about what meditation really is, why it works, and how to do it right.
Time to put your thinking cap on…

What The Heck Is Meditation?

A good quick way to see it from a neuroscience perspective is as “attention training.” (You know, attention. That thing none of us has anymore.)
But what the heck does attention have to do with happiness, stress relief and all the other wonderful things meditation is supposed to bring you?
Paul Dolan teaches at the London School of Economics and was a visiting scholar at Princeton where he worked with Nobel-Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. Dolan says this:
Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drives your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways.
And Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, did research showing that “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.” We want to focus on what the right side of the brain is giving us and get free from Lefty’s endless commentary.
When Lefty gets going with his ruminating, he’s much more likely to end up feeding you negative stories than positive ones. You’re happier when your attention is more focused on the concrete info your right brain is feeding you: the “here and now.” That’s all that “being in the moment” stuff you hear about.
So improving your attention is like dog obedience training for Lefty. When you can keep your attention on the right brain data and learn to disengage from Lefty’s running commentary you stress less, worry less and get less angry.
Is meditation powerful enough to overcome that often critical, cranky voice in your head? Yeah. It was even able to improve attention skills in people with ADD.
At the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, we recently conducted an eight-week pilot study that demonstrated that teaching meditation to people, including adults and adolescents with genetically loaded conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, could markedly reduce their level of distraction and impulsivity
Okay, so meditation helps you focus on good things and let go of the bad, which can help you be happier and less stressed. Makes sense. So how do you do it right?

How To Meditate

Focus your attention on your breath going in and out. Your mind will wander. Gently return your attention to your breath. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…
That’s it. Really. That’s all you have to do. Here’s how fancy neuroscience explains what’s going on…
If in mindfulness practice our mind is filled with word-based left-sided chatter at that moment, we could propose that there is a fundamental neural competition between right (body sense) and left (word-thoughts) for the limited resources of attentional focus at that moment. Shifting within mindful awareness to a focus on the body may involve a functional shift away from linguistic conceptual facts toward the nonverbal imagery and somatic sensations of the right hemisphere.
Translation: the more you pay attention to the concrete info your right brain is giving you about your breathing, the less attention you have for Lefty’s interpretations, evaluations and stories.
You’re building yourself a knob that turns down the volume on Lefty’s criticisms and ramblings.
But the process is slow. Lefty will start talking again and you need to keep returning to the breath. Over and over and over. Sound like a waste of time? Nope. Here’s that father of modern psychology again, William James…
The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character and will… An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.
Simple, right? Actually, I’m hesitant to call meditation “simple.” It is simple, as in “not complex.” Those instructions would fit on an index card with room for your grocery list.
But that doesn’t mean meditation is easy… You know why?

Lefty Fights Back

You try to focus on your breath and banish Lefty but he keeps storming back into the room banging a tympani drum and clashing cymbals together. He won’t shut up.
Even without any input except breathing he still keeps finding things to talk about. And he jumps from one idea to the next. You try to dismiss him but it’s like mental whack-a-mole.
This is where most people give up. Don’t. Your head is not broken and you’re not clinically insane. Buddhists have known about this problem for over a thousand years. They call it “monkey mind.”
Like the undeveloped mind, the metaphorical monkey is always in motion, jumping from one attempt at self-satisfaction to another, from one thought to another. “Monkey mind” is something that people who begin to meditate have an immediate understanding of as they begin to tune into the restless nature of their own psyches, to the incessant and mostly unproductive chatter of their thoughts.
Lefty is like a puppy locked in the house by himself, tearing up the furniture until you come home from work and pay attention to him. But there’s actually a valuable lesson here…
Lefty’s ideas seem so important. But then he’s on to talking about something else. And that seems so important. But then that idea flits away and it’s replaced by another one. And then that idea evaporates and is replaced…
Remember, Lefty isn’t you. He’s merely part of you, doing his job. Your heart beats, and Lefty generates thoughts. But those thoughts — which seem so important in the moment — drift away if you don’t entertain them.
And when it comes to the bad thoughts you have, and the bad feelings those generate, this is crucial and wonderful. You can just let them slide away.
But you’re tempted to take Lefty’s hand and go down the rabbit hole wondering if you should stop meditating because maybe you left the stove on, or if now wouldn’t be a great time to watch TV or finally debate the meaning of life…
Don’t. Turn your attention back to the breath.
And Lefty will say things that worry you or make you sad. And he knows just what will get under your skin. After all, he’s in your head. He’ll play “Lefty’s Greatest Hits” which never fail to get you all worked up. Don’t take the bait.
Your normal reaction is to grab your phone, check Instagram, check email, turn on the TV or do anything to distract yourself.
But that’s how you got into this problem in the first place. You need to sit here where it’s all quiet and build that attention muscle. No Instagram. Return your attention to your breath. Again and again, despite Lefty’s wailing.
Now you can’t shove Lefty away. He’s like the world’s worst internet troll — but with psychic powers. If you engage him, you just make it worse. Thoughts don’t float away if you wrestle with them. It’s like that finger trap puzzle you played with as a kid. The more you struggle to get out of it, the tighter it gets.
Just gently turn your attention back to the breath. Yes: over and over. Build that muscle.
Or maybe Lefty isn’t fighting you at all. Maybe you’re just skull-crushingly bored by this whole meditation thing. But the truth is, you’re not bored…
Lefty is. He’s tricked you again. The voice saying, “God, this sucks. Let’s watch TV.”? That’s not you. That’s him.
What is it when you call something boring? Is it concrete data from the right brain? No. It’s anevaluation. That’s Lefty talking.
Writer and neuroscience PhD Sam Harris explains that boredom is just a lack of attention.
One of the first things one learns in practicing meditation is that nothing is intrinsically boring— indeed, boredom is simply a lack of attention.
When Lefty says he’s bored that means you need more meditation — not less. Train that attention span and shut Lefty up.
Whether he’s banging pots and pans or trying to trick you into thinking “you” are bored, Lefty won’t shut up. How do you get him to pipe down?
The answer is quite fun. Because we’re going to get Lefty to work against himself…

Don’t Fight. Label.

Ronald Siegel, professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, writes this about the brain: “What we resist persists.” Arguing with Lefty just keeps him talking. You cannot “force” him to shut up.
So what’s the answer? Acknowledge Lefty. And, for a second, step away from focusing on the concrete and “label” what he is saying:
Lefty: “We keep meditating and we might be late for dinner. Better stop now.”
You: “Worrying.” (returns to focusing on the breath)
Lefty: “I wonder if we got any new emails…”
You: “Thinking.” (returns to focusing on the breath)
This uses Lefty against Lefty. When you use the left brain to put a label on its own concerns, it’s like writing something down on a to-do list. Now you can dismiss it because it’s been noted for later.
From a neuroscience perspective, it dampens Lefty’s yapping and frees you to return your attention to your breath.
…in one fMRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.
In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators to get bad guys to calm down.
Okay, so you know how to meditate and how to overcome the biggest problem people face when doing it — Lefty’s protests. But how does meditation lead to mindfulness?

Meditation Skills + Life = Mindfulness

Daniel Siegel of UCLA’s School of Medicine says that when you practice meditation consistently it actually becomes a personality trait.
You gradually start to take that attention-focusing and Lefty-labeling and apply it during your day-to-day life.
Mindful awareness over time may become a way of being or a trait of the individual, not just a practice initiating a temporary state of mind with certain approaches such as meditation, yoga, or centering prayer. We would see this movement from states to traits in the form of more long-term capabilities of the individual. From the research perspective, such a transition would be seen as a shift from being effortful and in awareness to effortless and at times perhaps not initiated with awareness.
But you can accelerate this process if you actively try to perform it. If you’re frustrated in traffic, you can focus your attention on the beautiful, sunny day outside.
When Lefty cries, “Why does this always happen to us!” you can label his statement as “frustrated.” That’ll cool down your amygdala and put your prefrontal cortex back in charge.
You can return your attention to the sunny day around you and let his complaints slide away as they always do — if you don’t turn them into a finger trap.
Lefty gets quieter and quieter. You focus more on the good things in the world around you.
And this is how you become mindful.
Okay, newbie meditator, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and see how mindfulness can lead to the most powerful form of happiness…

Sum Up

Here’s how to meditate:
  • Get comfortable. But not so comfortable you’re gonna fall asleep. This ain’t naptime.
  • Focus on your breath. You can think “in” as your breath goes in and “out” as your breath goes out if it helps you focus.
  • Label Lefty. When Lefty brings the circus to town in your head, use a word to label his chatter and dampen it.
  • Return to the breath. Over and over. Consistency is more important than duration. Doing 2 minutes every day beats an hour once a month.
What makes us happier than almost anything else? The research is pretty clear: relationships.
But winning the war with Lefty is so internal, right? It’s all about you. (And him, I guess… But he is you…So it’s still about you.) Does that mean meditation and mindfulness are hopelessly selfish and self-absorbed?
Nope. What’s one of the biggest complaints we hear from those we love — especially in the age of smartphones? “You don’t pay enough attention to me.”
And here’s where that meditation-honed attention muscle pays off. You can give them the focus they deserve. When you don’t have to spend most of the day hearing that chatterbox in your head, you can truly listen to the people you care about.
Daniel Siegel explains that those attention skills can powerfully improve relationships with those you love by an increased ability to empathize.
Our relationships with others are also improved perhaps because the ability to perceive the nonverbal emotional signals from others may be enhanced and our ability to sense the internal worlds of others may be augmented… In these ways we come to compassionately experience others’ feelings and empathize with them as we understand another person’s point of view.
Spend a little time focusing on your breath every day and you can replace Lefty’s voice with the voice of those you love.

A new app lets caregivers help others — and themselves

September 9, 2016

Here’s how you can assist loved ones and manage your own life through the USC Family Caregiver Support Center

Caring for a sick or elderly loved one means that a caregiver must juggle a wide variety of tasks — from managing medications, meals and health care appointments to making legal and financial decisions — all while balancing their own busy lives.
Can technology improve the quality of life for those receiving and providing care? To find out, the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the USC Family Caregiver Support Center (FCSC) has partnered with Care3, a developer of mobile health technology, to provide care planning and secure electronic support resources to all of the organization’s clients and their families.
Through a mobile app that complies with HIPAA medical privacy regulations, FCSC clients who create a list of care activities with guidance from the center’s staff will be able to access their loved one’s care plan, receive reminders, check off completed care tasks and send text messages to FCSC staff. The staff can also access the information to get instant, active feedback on the care plan and determine if the caregiver needs help with any issues.
In addition, the app will offer caregivers self-care reminders and tips, including instructions for relaxation exercises. Family caregivers often develop illnesses while caring for loved ones; the support center hopes to address caregivers’ stress, burnout and other health issues with the Care3 software.
“We can use Care3 to empower our caregiver clients to not only take care of their loved ones, but take better care of themselves as well,” said USC Davis School Research Associate Professor Donna Benton, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center.

We’re getting older

Due in part to the rapid aging of the U.S. population, there are now approximately 43.5 million people acting as unpaid caregivers across the country, each spending an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care to family members and friends, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. For caregivers in the Los Angeles area, the FCSC provides support for many aspects of caregiving, including connecting families with health care and other services and helping caregivers manage their own well-being.
The FCSC, which is the first organization to use such software with unpaid family caregivers, will begin using the app in early 2017. Benton added that if the pilot program for electronic care plans is successful, the FCSC would like to test the app’s usage in other areas and build an evidence-based program for helping caregivers and their loved ones with the technology.
“This can be a tighter way of measuring what’s going on at home, without caregivers needing to travel to us,” she said. “This will hopefully make caregivers’ lives less stressful and will help them better adhere to their loved one’s care plans.”
Founded by three former Aetna executives with entrepreneurial backgrounds in consumer and enterprise health technology, Care3 combines patient and family engagement with post-acute care coordination on the same platform to improve outcomes and reduce costly hospital readmissions. The software was first designed for use by home health agency workers before its adaptation for family caregivers.
“We are honored to be chosen by USC and the Family Caregiver Support Center,” said David Williams, Care3 co-founder and CEO. “Families receiving services from the FCSC are typically underserved and have low access to health care in their communities. Care3 can help bridge that care gap and coordinate care between family and providers.”

Friday, September 9, 2016

Clarkson University PT Professor Leads the Way in Parkinson's Care

September 9, 2016

Rebecca Martin 

Healthcare experts expect the number of people who have Parkinson's disease to double by 2030, so Clarkson University educator Rebecca Martin is dedicated to teaching up and coming physical therapists how to best treat their patients with this diagnosis.
Martin is a licensed physical therapist and a Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist, as well as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Clarkson University. Now, she is also a Parkinson's Disease Foundation Faculty Scholar. She was one of six physical therapy faculty and five nursing faculty selected to go to a four-day training session at Boston University in August.
“I spent a day at the clinic with the top neurologists at Boston University Medical Center,” she says. “We went from top to bottom on all the latest research on treating people with Parkinson's disease. They were willing to share all their knowledge so we faculty can go out and educate as many people as possible. The goal of the program is to train physical therapy faculty to be extremely knowledge about most care that people with PD receive so that we can pass this knowledge along to our students. We hope that in turn, our students will pass it along to their peers after they graduate and we can really get the word out there about how to best care for these individuals.”
Martin has been sharing her real-life experience at Clarkson, where she has taught neuromuscular coursework for three years. In addition, she practices physical therapy at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, where the majority of her patients has Parkinson's or has experienced a concussion.
“Parkinson's disease is more common in the North Country than people realize,” she says. “When I first started practicing here, I was surprised to not see many people with Parkinson's. Then I reached out to a local neurologist and learned they were seeing more than 200 people with Parkinson's in the Potsdam clinic alone. So, I completed more continuing education, spoke with some of the local neurologists, and started seeing some patients with Parkinson’s disease. Now they are coming out of the woodwork.”
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly one million people in the U.S. and over 10 million worldwide, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's. It's associated with a loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). Although promising research is being conducted, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease.
Physical therapy can improve the quality of life for those with Parkinson's disease, though. Exercise is the main tool we have to slow the progression of the disease and make the patient feel better, Martin says.
“Someone gets this devastating diagnosis and after coming to physical therapy for a while, I often hear them say something like 'This really has given me my life back.' It's exciting to get to share experiences like this, and to help them to change their lives,” she says. “I want people to know that there are definitely things they can do that can really improve their quality of life.”
Many times, people don't realize they have Parkinson's disease, so treatment is delayed. Two of the earliest symptoms are sleeping problems and a loss of the sense of smell, Martin adds. People may experience changes in their handwriting or they may stub their toes more often.
“It's really important for students to learn about these symptoms, so we hopefully can catch the disease earlier,” she says.
For those who do receive a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, a local support group meets at 2 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at Clarkson Hall, 59 Main St., Potsdam. Normally about 18 people show up each month to share information about nutrition, medication, treatment, assistive devices, etc.
Martin is on the board of the Seaway Parkinson's Coalition and is trying to raise local awareness and provide a better support system. The Coalition aims to help people travel to medical appointments or arrange for caregivers to come to someone's home.
“I hope anybody who needs support will reach out. I'm happy to answer questions,” she says. She can be reached by email at or by telephone at 315-268-1652. More information about Parkinson’s disease and its early symptoms can also be found at or
Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Bar mitzvah boy raises money for Parkinson’s — by hosting international kids film festival

Ryan Levine shooting a film (Courtesy Lisa Bercu Levine)

In third grade, Ryan Levine participated in an after-school workshop on filmmaking — and he’s been hooked ever since.
The 13-year-old loves getting together with his friends to act out their favorite scenes from “Star Wars,” and then editing the footage and adding on special effects.
“I like how you could be really creative, and I like doing technical things, using computers,” Levine said of his hobby.
So when it came time to decide on a philanthropic bar mitzvah project, a synagogue requirement, he decided to follow his passion — and go big.
No, he’s not making a documentary about a local soup kitchen or an endangered animal. Instead, Levine is hosting an international kids film festival in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The 13-year-old first came up with the idea for the festival last year, but he decided to put it into action in time for his bar mitzvah — as such, the event is also a fundraiser to benefit research for Parkinson’s disease.
The “Kids Film It Festival” is a contest for young filmmakers, ages 8 to 18. Children from around the world submit short films for consideration, and those selected will be screened at the festival on Nov. 5, in Cleveland.
In addition to the medium — movies — the festival’s cause, Parkinson’s, hits close to home.
Nine years ago, the seventh-grader’s grandmother was diagnosed with the progressive neural disorder, which leads to a loss of movement control.
“I’ve seen how Parkinson’s can affect people,” Levine said.
Ryan Levine with his grandmother, Jackie Bercu (Courtesy Lisa Bercu Levine)
All money raised for the festival will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, an organization founded by the actor, who suffers from the disease.
With the aid of his mother, Lisa Bercu Levine, a sports media consultant, the 13-year-old approached national sports teams and asked if they would donate tickets and meet-and-greet opportunities. He then auctioned off the tickets and experiences, which included a meeting with baseball team Washington Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker and a post-game locker room tour with the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.
So far, Levine has raised $8,800, and he’s hoping to reach his goal of $15,000 by the start of the festival, for which the submission deadline of Sept. 30 is approaching.
Over 25 children from around the world have sent in films, which will be judged by George Cheeks, President of NBC Late Night Programming and Business Operations, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marc Buckland.
Cheeks and Buckland will pick the finalists, whose films will be screened in November.
“I’m really excited,” Levine said. “I’ve gotten to watch a lot of the films. It’s great to see everyone’s creativity, and how they use special effects.”
Still, there’s one thing Levine, who dreams of becoming a professional filmmaker, is missing out on: submitting a project of his own for consideration by the celebrity judges.
“I would, but since I’m running the film festival we decided it wouldn’t be right,” he said.

Bacteria discovery may be key to so-called non-infectious diseases

September 9, 2016

A link between a single molecule from a bacterial cell wall component, which can lead to the anomalous behaviour of 100m clotting molecules, and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes has been made by a collaboration between the University of Pretoria and the University of Manchester.
The discovery could help to explain many features of these kinds of diseases, and may lead to new methods of prevention or treatment. 

A team from South Africa, lead by Professor Resia Pretorius and including student, Sthembile Mbotwe, and researcher, Dr Janette Bester, together with colleagues from University of Manchester, under leadership of Professor Douglas B Kell, tested blood and plasma for its ability to clot when the normal clotting agent thrombin was added. 

Chronic inflammation

Normal, healthy blood clots have a nice spaghetti-like appearance. However, the results showed that tiny amounts of cell wall molecules such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which are shed by dormant bacteria, caused a highly anomalous clot to form dense deposits with very different fibres. 

These can contribute to the chronic inflammation that is part of many supposedly non-infectious diseases. These include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems such as stroke, and metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes.

Impact on treatment

The discovery could have considerable impact on the treatment of these conditions, since stopping the unusual clotting would be expected to stop its consequences. Existing treatments do not so this as the new mechanism had not previously been known. 

Pretorius says: “The importance of LPS in inflammatory diseases has been mostly overlooked, and has been used to induce both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in animal testing for many years. Inflammatory diseases are also closely linked to leaky gut syndrome. Together with our new findings regarding the involvement of a (dormant) blood microbiome, this demonstrates that dormant bacteria can play an important role in all inflammatory diseases.”

“The breakthrough finding that tiny amounts of bacterial cell wall material can have a massive effect on causing blood to clot in an unusual way explains much about the biology of many of these diseases. This opens up novel means ̶ including nutritional ̶ for their prevention and treatment,” explains Kell.

The work is part of an ongoing collaboration between the University of Pretoria team and The University of Manchester team, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to understand unusual blood clotting, the National Research Foundation (South Africa) and the Medical Research Council (South Africa).

Fanshawe’s School of Design teams up with medical technology sector

September 9, 2016

Fanshawe graduate Louise Marchand (left) adjusts belts on the motion capture suit. Marchand and Fanshawe design professors designed the suit to be used in the diagnosis and monitoring of Parkinson’s patients. (Photo submitted)

You won’t find it on the catwalk, but a prototype motion capture suit from Fanshawe College’s School of Design in collaboration with London-based medical device company Movement Disorder Diagnostic Technologies (MDDT) may one day help diagnose and monitor people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
According to a news release August 31, the motion capture suit is designed to help researchers report and assess the tremors of patients more accurately, an important process before determining the correct dosages for drug therapies.
With Fanshawe’s help, MDDT’s technology is being adapted for home assessment and mass production. The suit works with software MDDT uses to capture data from sensors placed at fixed points across the body. The data obtained is then used in ongoing monitoring and assessment.
The suit is also being designed for Parkinson’s patients with a wide variety of tremor activity and varying body types while still being washable and durable.
“The collaborative efforts between MDDT and Fanshawe College allowed us to address an unmet patient need in medicine,” said Jack Lee, chief technology officer at MDDT. “We are grateful for the design by recent Fanshawe graduate Louise Marchand, with guidance from Fanshawe design professors, which incorporates comfort and practicality into new medical technology.”
Fanshawe’s School of Design is also providing input into a similar MDDT prototye, the TremorTek sleeve.
An earlier design by the company, the sleeve contains multiple sensors that can analyze complex movements with a high degree of accuracy. Using data from the sleeve, doctors are able to isolate specific areas for the arm muscle to guide drug treatments.
The prototype also allows for use by multiple health care providers and caregivers when monitoring tremor treatments at the hospital or at home.
“This project demonstrates the trend towards cross-sector research and innovation activities and, in this case, by the merging of fashion with technology to develop a product for the health sector,” said Dan Douglas, dean of Fanshawe’s Centre for Research and Innovation. “Projects such as this have an immediate and substantial impact for industry partners and those they serve while providing valuable experiences for our student researchers.”

Newron back on track for Xadago approval in US

September 9, 2016

Italian firm is not required to conduct additional trials for its Parkinson’s disease drug
Newron Pharma will not have to conduct any additional clinical trials for its Parkinson's disease drug Xadago in the US, setting up a new FDA filing in the coming weeks.
The Italian pharma company's partner Zambon is already rolling Xadago (safinamide) out in Europe following its EMA approval last year, and has just launched in Norway taking the tally of countries where it is available to 11.
However, hopes of a US launch hit a major setback in March when the FDA rejected its marketing application with a request for more information on its abuse potential.
Now, Newron is planning to refile a marketing application with the FDA in November, setting Xadago on course for a mid-2017 approval in the world's largest pharma market, where privately-held Zambon has sub-licensed it to specialty pharma firm WorldMeds.
Analysts at Edison had placed a hold rating on the company on fears that the FDA would demand additional clinical trials, but now predict the drug will be used in around 10% of all Parkinson's disease patients six years after launch - which would represent a market of around €450m a year.
The monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor is used as an add-on to levodopa therapy - the mainstay of Parkinson's disease treatment - and competes with Lundbeck and Teva's Azilect (rasagiline), which had sales of around $650m in 2014 but is due to lose patent protection next year.
Edison suggests Xadago may be insulated from generic competition somewhat as it does not appear to have a tyramine interaction, which means users do not have to adopt dietary restrictions such as avoiding cheese and red wine.
They also note that in trials Xadago has shown positive effects on dyskinesia - involuntary movements such as tics that can develop after prolonged levodopa use in Parkinson's - that could represent an additional €350m market opportunity for the drug.
"We assume the safinamide label could be expanded to include dyskinesia following a single clinical trial, which could potentially start once approval has been granted in the US and could lead to potential launch in 2020," say the analysts.