Staying Mentally Active But Not Prolonged TV Viewing Linked To Lower Memory Loss

A study to be presented at a conference in the US in late spring suggests that staying mentally active as in reading magazines, or pursuing a craft
or hobby like knitting, pottery, and even playing computer games, in later life may delay or prevent memory loss: however watching too much TV does not.

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st Annual Meeting, which this year takes place from 25 April to 2 May in
Seattle, Washington.

The researchers studied 197 people aged 70 to 89 who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or memory loss, and compared them to
1,124 people of the same age group who had no such symptoms.

They questioned both groups about their daily activities in middle age (when they were 50 to 65 years old) and within the past year.

The results showed that:

Participants whose daily activity in later life included reading books, playing games, using the computer, and doing crafts like pottery and quilting,
had a 30 to 50 per cent lower risk of developing memory loss compared to participants who did none of these things.
Participants who spent less than seven hours a day in their later years watching TV were 50 per cent less likely to develop memory loss
compared to those who spent more than 7 hours a day in front of the TV.
And participants who had socialized and read magazines during middle age were about 40 per cent less likely to develop memory loss later in life
than those who had not.

One of the authors, Dr Yonas Geda, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a member of the American Academy of
Neurology, said in a press statement that:

“This study is exciting because it demonstrates that aging does not need to be a passive process.”

“By simply engaging in cognitive exercise, you can protect against future memory loss,” Geda explained, while cautiously adding that:

“Of course, the challenge with this type of research is that we are relying on past memories of the participants, therefore, we need to confirm these
findings with additional research.”

Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between normal aging and the more serious problems of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It often includes the memory
loss problems associated with with Alzheimer’s, but it doesn’t have many of the other symptoms of full blown dementia.

Many people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) do go on to develop Alzheimer’s, but some do not, so a diagnosis of MCI does not mean you
will develop Alzheimer’s.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic are testing a simple way to help people with MCI to hang on to their independence. The system relies on monthly pocket
calendars that are small enough to fit in a man’s pocket or a woman’s purse. Each day on the calendar shows planned events and things to do, plus
miscellaneous notes like the weather forecast or something useful like what the latest bargain is at the local supermarket.

This type of memory tool has been tested and found successful with people who have suffered memory problems after brain injury, so the Mayo Clinic
scientists are testing it on people with mild cognitive impairment to see if it serves them too. So far it appears that it does.

More information on the pocket calendar tool and trial can be found at mayoclinic/health/memory-loss/HA00001.

Abstracts for the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st Annual Meeting will be available to view online from 25 February on this webpage aan/go/science/abstracts.

Sources: American Academy of Neurology, Mayo Clinic website.

: Catharine Paddock, PhD

Insecticide-Treated Bednets More Effective When Repellents Used Between Dusk And Bedtime

Using insect repellent in addition to insecticide treated bednets (ITNs) has been shown to provide greater protection against malaria in areas where mosquitoes feed in the early evening.

The findings of a study carried out by the team based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and working in collaboration with the National Bureau of Malaria Control at the Ministry of Health in La Paz, Bolivia, are published in the British Medical Journal.

36% of the population of the Americas live in areas with a risk of malaria. This includes 293 million people in 21 endemic countries. Of the 1.14 million cases of malaria reported in the Americas during 2000, 87% were recorded in the Amazonian subregion of South America.

The primary malaria vector in the Amazon in anopheles Darlingi. Its peak biting activity is between 8 and 10pm, and more than 80% of feeding occurs before most local people to go bed, where they can be protected by an insecticide treated bednet. Tourists visiting the area are already advised to use repellents as well as bed nets. The researchers sought to determine whether this advice was justified, and whether the combination of repellents and ITNs is indeed more effective in reducing malaria than using ITNs alone.

4008 individuals, based in 860 households in rural villages and peri-urban districts in the Bolivian Amazon, were divided into two groups; all participants already slept under ITNs, but one group also used a plant-based insect repellent, and the second a placebo.

The result was an 80% reduction in episodes of p.vivax (the malaria parasite) in the group that used both ITNs and repellent.

Nigel Hill, a Medical Entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and lead author of the study, comments: ‘Prior to this study, it was already known that ITNs are a highly effective way of reducing morbidity and mortality from malaria in Africa, where local vectors bite indoors, late at night. Insect repellents were also known to reduce bites, but the extent to which they were able to protect against insect-borne disease was less clear.

‘The findings from this study tell us that treated bednets should not be used as the only means of treating malaria in areas where vectors feed mainly in the evening. Use of an insect repellent can significantly reduce the risk of malaria. The combined use of a repellent and a treated bednet should be advocated to those travelling to malaria risk areas’.


Plant based insect repellent and insecticide-treated bed nets to protect against malaria in areas of early evening biting vectors: double blind randomised placebo controlled clinical trial in the Bolivian Amazon.

N Hill, A Lenglet, A M Arnez, I Carneiro.

Source: Lindsay Wright

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Gender-Related Brain Differences In Early Onset Mental Illness

Puberty may have an impact on areas of the brain that contribute to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia in youth, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).

Researchers studying the brains of youth with bipolar disorder (also known as manic depressive illness) and schizophrenia found that these children have size differences in some brain areas between these disorders and between genders. These changes exist in key areas of the brain that are involved in reward, motivation, sensory input, emotion and memory, and researchers say examining these areas can help researchers understand developmental processes that occur around the time mental disorders develop.

The brains of children with bipolar disorder are different from the brains of children with schizophrenia, and there are brain differences between boys and girls, and investigators say such findings can help them better understand gender’s role in brain processes, and how it affects the development of mental illness. Additionally, they could help lay the foundation for identifying different possible treatment approaches to these illnesses in boys and girls.

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to determine if specific areas of the brain differ according to sex and adolescent development, compared to children without these disorders,” says Jean A. Frazier, M.D., Director of the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatric Research Program at Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts and an ACNP member.

Frazier and fellow researchers examined 103 brain scans of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and found that the nucleus accumbens (a brain structure that is involved in motivation and pleasure) was larger in bipolar disorder. They also found that the thalamus (the part of the brain through which sensory information passes to the cerebral cortex) was smaller in children with schizophrenia.

Frazier’s work suggests that as the brain develops, some brain structures may be more vulnerable to mental illness than others in children with these illnesses, particularly during pubertal development. These developmental brain changes may be biomarkers – specific traits – that make the brain more vulnerable to these mental illnesses.

Finally, when Frazier looked at the entire bipolar group compared to healthy children, the hippocampus (the part of the brain which plays a central role in memory) was smaller in youth with bipolar disorder after puberty, particularly in girls. Younger (pre-pubescent) children did not show this difference. These findings suggest that sex hormones may influence how the brains of these vulnerable children develop and that the onset of puberty may be associated with the abnormal brain development seen in these children.

“Future studies need to look at sex differences over time in order to understand more about these mental disorders and the information gleaned from these studies may help researchers determine how to best help children who suffer from these conditions,” Frazier says. “This may allow us to find improved treatment, perhaps in a sex-specific way.

The findings add to the evidence that adolescence is a critical period of vulnerability for the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The onset initiates a set of sex -specific brain developmental processes that may have an important role in the emergence of these disorders.


ACNP, founded in 1961, is a professional organization of more than 700 leading scientists, including four Nobel Laureates. The mission of ACNP is to further research and education in neuropsychopharmacology and related fields in the following ways: promoting the interaction of a broad range of scientific disciplines of brain and behavior in order to advance the understanding of prevention and treatment of disease of the nervous system including psychiatric, neurological, behavioral and addictive disorders; encouraging scientists to enter research careers in fields related to these disorders and their treatment; and ensuring the dissemination of relevant scientific advances.

Source: Sharon Reis

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Crushing Pills Can Lead To Serious Complications And Even Death

If you find pills hard to swallow you should consider taking the medication as a patch, in liquid form or through an inhaler, before attempting to crush them. Crushing pills and swallowing them can lead to severe side-effects, and even death, says a group of experts who have formulated a new guideline.

Many pills have special coatings on them to regulate their rate of release when they enter the body. Crushing them can change the rate of release and lead to temporary overdose.

Pills which are taken just once a day often have a special coating which makes the release into the body slow and constant during the 24-hour period. Crushing could give the patient too much at first, and then nothing for the second half of the day.

Over half of all elderly people find it difficult to swallow pills and tablets. In fact, the majority of tablets in care homes are crushed by the nursing staff.

Here are examples of some complications:

– Tamoxifen must never be crushed. Whoever is doing the crushing could be inhaling the drug. If that person is pregnant this could be extremely harmful. Tamoxifen is used for treating breast-cancer.

– Morphine. If this is crushed the patient has a high risk of having an overdose (it will be released into the body too quickly).

– Nifedipine. If crushed, the patient is at much higher risk of stroke or heart attack. Some other side-effects associated with crushing include headaches and dizziness. Nifedipine is used for the treatment of angina and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Amazingly, say the researchers, patients, carers and relatives are frequently told to crush the pills by doctors and nurses. If a doctor or nurse tells people to crush their medication, he/she could be liable.

Richard Griffith, Lecturer, Healthcare Law, University of Wales, one of the team members who formulated the new guideline, said “A healthcare professional who advises that a tablet is crushed or a capsule opened to assist with swallowing difficulties should proceed with caution. Any resulting harm could render the person legally liable due to negligence. Improved communication between prescriber and patient could significantly reduce these problems, and dramatically improve patient care.”

It is vital that doctors find out first whether the patient has trouble swallowing pills before handing out the prescription. Most medications that exist as pills or tablets can also be available in liquid form, patches, through inhalers or as suppositories.

The study was carried out by Rosemont Pharmaceuticals Limited, makers of liquid medications. Dr. David Wright, University of East Anglia, UK, and team created the new guidelines.

– Click here to download the new guideline (PDF)

The True Cost Of Deepwater Disaster

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 devastated the Gulf of Mexico ecologically and economically. However, a new study published in Conservation Letters reveals that the true impact of the disaster on wildlife may be gravely underestimated. The study argues that fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses will not give a true death toll, which may be 50 times higher than believed.

“The Deepwater oil spill was the largest in US history, however, the recorded impact on wildlife was relatively low, leading to suggestions that the environmental damage of the disaster was actually modest,” said lead author Dr Rob Williams from the University of British Columbia.”This is because reports have implied that the number of carcasses recovered, 101, equals the number of animals killed by the spill.”

The team focused their research on 14 species of cetacean, an order of mammals including whales and dolphins. While the number of recovered carcasses has been assumed to equal the number of deaths, the team argues that marine conditions and the fact that many deaths will have occurred far from shore mean recovered carcasses will only account for a small proportion of deaths.

To illustrate their point, the team multiplied recent species abundance estimates by the species mortality rate. An annual carcass recovery rate was then estimated by dividing the mean number of observed strandings each year by the estimate of annual mortality.

The team’s analysis suggests that only 2% of cetacean carcasses were ever historically recovered after their deaths in this region, meaning that the true death toll from the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be 50 times higher than the number of deaths currently estimated.

“This figure illustrates that carcass counts are hugely misleading, if used to measure the disaster’s death toll,” said co-author Scott Kraus of the New England Aquarium “No study on carcass recovery from strandings has ever recovered anything close to 100% of the deaths occurring in any cetacean population. The highest rate we found was only 6.2%, which implied 16 deaths for every carcass recovered.”

The reason for the gulf between the estimates may simply be due to the challenges of working in the marine environment. The Deepwater disaster took place 40 miles offshore, in 1500m of water, which is partly why estimates of oil flow rates during the spill were so difficult to make.

“The same factors that made it difficult to work on the spill also confound attempts to evaluate environmental damages caused by the spill,” said Williams. “Consequently, we need to embrace a similar level of humility when quantifying the death tolls.”

If the approach outlined by this study were to be adopted the team believe this may present an opportunity to use the disaster to develop new conservation tools that can be applied more broadly, revealing the environmental impacts of other human activities in the marine environment.

“The finding that strandings represent a very low proportion of the true deaths is also critical in considering the magnitude of other human causes of mortality like ship strikes, where the real impacts may similarly be dramatically underestimated by the numbers observed” said John Calambokidis, a Researcher with Cascadia Research and a co-author on the publication.

“Our concern also applies to certain interactions with fishing gear, because there are not always systematic data with which to accurately estimate by-catch, especially for large whales”, noted Jooke Robbins, a co-author from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. “When only opportunistic observations are available, these likely reflect a fraction of the problem.”

“While we did not conduct a study to estimate the actual number of deaths from the oil spill, our research reveals that the accepted figures are a grave underestimation,” concluded Dr. Williams. “We now urge methodological development to develop appropriate multipliers so that we discover the true cost of this tragedy.”

Ben Norman


Meso Scale Diagnostics’ Point Of Care Influenza Test Led To The First Identification Of A(H1N1) Swine Flu Infection

Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC. (MSD) confirmed that its investigational influenza test was used in detecting the first identified case of infection with the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu. The MSD(R) Point of Care Influenza Test, which is being developed under a contract with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the investigational device referred to in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Dispatch dated April 21, 2009.

As described in the MMWR Dispatch, Patient A visited an outpatient clinic in San Diego with influenza-like symptoms and participated in an ongoing clinical study of the MSD Point of Care Influenza Test, coordinated at that site by the Naval Health Research Center. A nasal swab taken from the patient tested positive for Influenza A on the MSD test, but the specific subtype could not be determined by the test, suggesting the possible presence of a novel influenza strain. Per protocols established for conducting the clinical trial, this result prompted further testing at a reference laboratory that confirmed that the virus was not a common seasonal strain. The virus was ultimately identified by the CDC as a novel strain that included components having swine influenza lineage.

MSD’s Point of Care Influenza Test has been in development since 2006 under a contract with CDC, supported by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an office under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). MSD’s test supports BARDA’s goal of advancing rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests for novel influenza viruses. Currently-available point of care influenza tests are designed to detect influenza A and B infections. The MSD Point of Care Influenza Test is designed to additionally identify influenza A infections by subtype, differentiating between common human A(H1N1), common human A(H3N2) and avian A(H5N1) influenza strains.

The MSD Point of Care Influenza Test has been granted an investigational device exemption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently undergoing evaluation in a multi-site clinical trial. The test, which consists of a portable instrument and disposable test cartridges, reports results from a nasal swab sample within 15 minutes. The early identification of the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu infection as a result of the use of MSD’s test highlights the need, identified by BARDA and the CDC, for point-of-care tests with the ability to differentiate between common and novel strains of influenza.

Important Information

This release does not reflect the views or policies, nor infer official endorsement by the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services. MSD acknowledges the support of this project by the CDC and HHS/ASPR/BARDA.

About MSD

Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC., based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, develops, manufactures, and markets instrumentation and assays for array-based biological measurements for research use in life sciences and for biodefense applications. MSD is currently developing products for the clinical market focused on point-of-care and high-throughput testing for influenza and other key health panels.

Source: Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC

House Labor-HHS Spending Bill To Fund ‘Teen Pregnancy Prevention Imitative’

On Friday, the House Appropriations Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved by voice vote a $730.5 billion spending bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, CQ Today reports. The bill shifts funding away from abstinence-only sex education toward more comprehensive pregnancy prevention programs. The bill would allocate $114.5 million for a “teenage pregnancy prevention initiative” that offers “evidence-based and other approaches, such as abstinence.” The measure continues several prohibitions on using federal funds to cover abortion and restrictions on funding for embryo research (Wolfe, CQ Today, 7/10).

The measure includes $73.7 billion in discretionary spending for HHS, $2 billion more than President Obama requested (Hunt, CongressDaily, 7/10). The full committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on July 17 (CQ Today, 7/10).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women’s Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

© 2009 The Advisory Board Company. All rights reserved.

The 4th World Summit On Organ Donation And 8th Annual ‘Celebrating Life After Transplant’ Gala

The International
Association for Organ Donation and Wayne State University School of
Medicine will be hosting the 4th World Summit on Organ Donation at the Ritz
Carlton in Dearborn, MI on April 19-20, 2007. The International Association
for Organ Donation is a non-profit organization specializing in educating
minorities as well as the general public about organ donation and related
issues to help dispel misnomers about transplantation and help increase
organ donation registration. The organization is located in Detroit, MI and
is headed by Fouad Beydoun, PhD, President, IAOD, Vice Chairman, Board of
Trustees Harper University Hospital/Hutzel Hospital, Detroit Medical
Center. This global symposium will bring together professionals from around
the world to share best practices, explore new technologies, present new
ideas and information in the field of organ donation and cancer. The
keynote speaker for the World Summit will be Robert M. Mentzer, Jr., M.D.,
Dean, Wayne State University School of Medicine and senior advisor to the
president for medical affairs.

Claire Vajdic, PhD will be presenting recent findings on Cancer
Incidence Before and After Kidney Transplantation. An article published in
JAMA, December 20, 2006 concludes that: Kidney transplantation is
associated with a marked increase in cancer risk at a wide variety of
sites. Immune suppression may be responsible for the increased risk.

There will be a unique opportunity to hear from representatives from
Canada; Kimberly Young, Executive Director, Canadian Council for Donation
and Transplantation, Austria; Marcia Coleman, Chairman, Australian Donate
and the United States; Jade Perdue, Public Health Analyst, Division of
Transplantation, who will be discussing the international approach and the
growing statistical support for change in practices.

Hear about the controversial accusations from the recently published
Kilgour-Matas report regarding illegal organ harvesting in China, along
with other astounding revelations about the black market and unethical
practices in Pakistan, Brazil, and South Africa. There will also be many
more cutting edge presentations from doctors in the United States,
including increasing the use of ECD and DCD.

Join us, the evening of April 20th, for the 8th Annual “Celebrating
Life After Transplant” Gala which will follow the last day of the Summit at
the Ritz Carlton with keynote speaker Tom LaSorda, President and CEO for
the Chrysler Group. This event will be different from all others as it will
be a true celebration recognizing DaimlerChrysler and Former Secretary of
Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson for their tremendous work to
educate the public about the facts regarding organ donation and
transplantation, as well as recipients and individuals on the transplant
wait list. Randy Scott and his band will be providing the entertainment for
the entire celebration with dinner and dancing.

Event Sponsors: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GM, UAW, Wayne State University
School of Medicine, Oakwood Hospital, Epoch Restaurant, Inc., Astellas,
Pfizer, Roche, BCBSM, Henry Ford Health System, Compuware and the many
individuals who share our mission to save lives each year will be present
for the celebration.

International Association for Organ Donation

New UK Drive To End Malaria Deaths

An additional 30 million bed nets, the development of life-saving new treatments and new funding to increase access to anti-malarial drugs are announced today in a package of measures by International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, as the UK continues its fight to rid the world of malaria.

Every year 247 million people are infected with malaria with nearly one million of those dying from the disease.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has led the UK’s programme to tackle malaria. By 2010 we will have met the Prime Minster’s pledge to deliver 20 million bednets- preventing some 110,000 child deaths and our funding to the Global Fund has helped deliver 74 million malaria treatments.

Today Douglas Alexander announced the action DFID will take over the coming years, which will prevent millions of people dying from this preventable disease. These measures include:

- 30 million new long lasting insecticide treated bednets (10 million each year from 2010 to 2013), to help ensure all women and children that need to are sleeping under a bednet and to help replace existing bednets where required. This new commitment will help prevent a further 165,000 child deaths.

- ВЈ19 million from 2010 to the Medicines for Malaria Venture to support the development of new drugs to combat malaria, including those to treat children.

- Financial support for the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFM) pilot which makes the newer, effective malaria combination therapies available at low prices to public and private sectors by negotiating directly with drug suppliers to secure lower prices for guaranteed orders. This means they can be passed on to patients at low prices or for free. DFID is currently providing ВЈ40 million over two years and beyond 2010 we will maintain at least this level of support for the roll out and expansion of the AMFM, if it proves successful.

- Exploring an Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) to create a range of vaccines by the end of 2009, including a special focus on malaria. AMC is an innovative financing scheme which works by using donor advance commitments to subsidise the purchase of effective vaccines desperately needed in the developing world- thereby creating commercial demand for the vaccines. DFID will stand ready to commit significant financial support to put in place a new AMC if the assessment study recommends we do so.

- Driving and supporting action to encourage political leadership, commitment and public awareness about malaria with the goal of reaching the Global Malaria Action Plan target of reducing deaths to near zero by 2015. We will work closely with campaigns such as United Against Malaria – including Malaria No More – and use the 2010 World Cup as a way of raising awareness and support.

International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, said:

“It is shocking and wrong that one million people still die from malaria every year. Most of these lives could be saved if people slept under a bednet but all too often families cannot afford one.

“That is why this Government is supplying families across Africa with bednets to protect them from this killer disease We are already committed to distributing 20 million bednets worldwide by 2010 and we are now aiming to supply a further 30 million nets by 2013.

“Thanks to Britain we are saving millions of lives, which is something we can all be proud of.”

Department for International Development

Sleep Problems Get In The Way Of Alcoholism Recovery

The first few months of recovery from an alcohol problem are hard enough. But they’re often made worse by serious sleep problems, caused by the loss of alcohol’s sedative effects, and the long-term sleep-disrupting impact that alcohol dependence can have on the brain.

Now, a new study gives further evidence that insomnia and other sleep woes may actually get in the way of recovery from alcohol problems. In fact, a person’s perception of how bad their sleep problems are may be just as important as the actual sleep problems themselves, the study suggests.

The study is published in the new issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, by a team from the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry. They report the results of a small but thorough evaluation of sleep, sleep perception and alcohol relapse among 18 men and women with insomnia who were in the early stages of alcohol recovery.

The authors say their results show how important it is for alcohol recovery patients, and those who are helping them through their recovery, to discuss sleep disturbances and seek help. Often, sleep isn’t discussed in alcohol recovery programs – but it should be, they stress.

In fact, members of the U-M team have now launched a new study that aims to help those who have just entered treatment for alcohol problems, and are having trouble sleeping. Instead of using sleep medications, which can carry their own risk of addiction, it’s based on a series of “talk therapy” sessions with a trained sleep therapist who can help patients change behaviors and patterns of thinking that contribute to sleep problems.

In the meantime, the newly published results add to the understanding of how alcohol and sleep intertwine.

“What we found is that those patients who had the biggest disconnect between their perception of how they slept and their actual sleep patterns were most likely to relapse,” says lead author Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., who led the study as a fellow in the U-M Addiction Research Center. “This suggests that long-term drinking causes something to happen in the brain that interferes with both sleep and perception of sleep. If sleep problems aren’t addressed, the risk of relapse may be high.”

Conroy and her former mentor, U-M alcoholism researcher Kirk Brower, M.D., conducted the study in cooperation with the sleep researchers of the U-M Sleep and Chronophysiology Laboratory, the U-M Sleep Disorders Center, and U-M Addiction Treatment Services. She is now at the McLaren Sleep Diagnostic Center.

“We are now interested in what brain mechanisms are involved in the disrupted sleep of alcohol-dependent individuals,” says Brower, who has previously led studies illustrating the prevalence of sleep disorders among people with alcohol dependence and abuse issues, and their correlation with relapse back into drinking. He is the executive director of the U-M Addiction Treatment Services, which provides alcohol and drug treatment to hundreds of patients each year.

The new study involved women who had volunteered for a randomized clinical trial of gabapentin, an experimental treatment for alcohol dependence. Each one started the trial when they had been off alcohol for about a week.

The volunteers spent two separate nights in the sleep-monitoring area of the U-M General Clinical Research Center, wearing electrodes on their head and body that measured their brain waves during sleep, as well as their breathing, muscle activity and heart rhythm. The detailed measurements, which together make up a procedure called polysomnography, allowed the researchers to determine when the volunteers were sleeping, when they were awake, and which stage of sleep they were in.

These sleep data were compared with the participants’ answers on morning evaluations of how they slept – including how long they thought it took them to fall asleep, how long they were awake in the night, and other measures. The two nights of sleep monitoring were done several weeks apart. The researchers also asked the participants to report any alcohol they drank during the six weeks following each sleep test.

In all, the patients overestimated how long it took them to fall asleep, but thought they had been awake in the middle of the night for far less time than they actually were. These perceptions about how they slept were actually more accurate in predicting their potential for relapse to alcohol use than were the actual sleep measurements.

“Our study suggests that in early recovery from alcoholism, people perceived that it took them a long time to fall asleep and that they slept through the night,” says Conroy. “The reality was that it did not take them as long to fall asleep as they thought it did, and their brain was awake for a large portion of the night. On average, the participants that were less accurate about how they were sleeping were more likely to return to drinking.”

Conroy explains that poor sleep quality can lead to mood disturbances. “If recovering alcoholics are irritable because they are not getting quality sleep at night, they might be more vulnerable to return to drinking,” she says. “Previous studies show that nonalcoholics with insomnia actually think they are sleeping worse than they are, so they may be more likely to seek appropriate treatment. Our study shows that an alcoholic in early recovery has a lot of wakefulness in the night but they are not necessarily picking up on this. It is important for the clinician working with the alcohol-dependent patient to have a differential of poor sleep quality in the back of their mind as a potential challenge for the patient throughout alcohol recovery.”


Read more about the study online by visiting umengage/ and searching for sleep studies.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, part of the federal National Institutes of Health. In addition to Conroy and Brower, the study’s authors are Roseanne Armitage, Ph.D., J. Todd Arnedt, Ph.D., and Robert Hoffmann, Ph.D., of the Sleep & Chronophysiology Laboratory; Stephen Strobbe, M.S., RN, NP, of U-M Addiction Treatment Services; and Flavia Consens, M.D., of the U-M Department of Neurology and Sleep Disorders Center.

Contact: Kara Gavin

University of Michigan Health System