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  • Thalamic Deep Brain Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain: Efficacy at Three Years' Follow-Up.

    28 January 2018

    OBJECT: Chronic neuropathic pain is estimated to affect 3-4.5% of the worldwide population, posing a serious burden to society. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is already established for movement disorders and also used to treat some "off-label" conditions. However, DBS for the treatment of chronic, drug refractory, neuropathic pain, has shown variable outcomes with few studies performed in the last decade. Thus, this procedure has consensus approval in parts of Europe but not the USA. This study prospectively evaluated the efficacy at three years of DBS for neuropathic pain. METHODS: Sixteen consecutive patients received 36 months post-surgical follow-up in a single-center. Six had phantom limb pain after amputation and ten deafferentation pain after brachial plexus injury, all due to traumas. To evaluate the efficacy of DBS, patient-reported outcome measures were collated before and after surgery, using a visual analog scale (VAS) score, University of Washington Neuropathic Pain Score (UWNPS), Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), and 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). RESULTS: Contralateral, ventroposterolateral sensory thalamic DBS was performed in sixteen patients with chronic neuropathic pain over 29 months. A postoperative trial of externalized DBS failed in one patient with brachial plexus injury. Fifteen patients proceeded to implantation but one patient with phantom limb pain after amputation was lost for follow-up after 12 months. No surgical complications or stimulation side effects were noted. After 36 months, mean pain relief was sustained, and the median (and interquartile range) of the improvement of VAS score was 52.8% (45.4%) (p = 0.00021), UWNPS was 30.7% (49.2%) (p = 0.0590), BPI was 55.0% (32.0%) (p = 0.00737), and SF-36 was 16.3% (30.3%) (p = 0.4754). CONCLUSIONS: DBS demonstrated efficacy at three years for chronic neuropathic pain after traumatic amputation and brachial plexus injury, with benefits sustained across all pain outcomes measures and slightly greater improvement in phantom limb pain.

  • Methylphenidate enhances implicit learning in healthy adults.

    1 February 2018

    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: One limiting factor in the development of pharmacological interventions to enhance cognition is the absence of biomarkers that can be used in healthy volunteers to screen novel compounds. Drug discovery has tended to rely heavily on explicit measures of cognition, but these are typically insensitive to cognition-enhancing effects in healthy volunteers. This study investigated whether a novel battery of implicit cognition measures is sensitive to the effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin) in healthy volunteers. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Eighty healthy volunteers were randomised to receive either a single (10 mg) dose of methylphenidate or matched placebo. Participants completed a battery of tasks measuring implicit cognition (location priming, contextual cueing, implicit task switching). The effect of methylphenidate on standard, explicit measures of cognition was also assessed. KEY RESULTS: Methylphenidate enhanced implicit learning on the location priming task and the implicit task-switching task. In line with previous work, we found that these effects were greater in male volunteers. There was no evidence for improved learning in any of the explicit measures. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: These results demonstrate that implicit measures of cognition are sensitive to pharmacological interventions in healthy volunteers. As such, implicit cognition measures may be a useful way of screening and tracking cognitive effects of novel agents in experimental medicine studies.

  • Exome-Wide Meta-Analysis Identifies Rare 3'-UTR Variant in ERCC1/CD3EAP Associated with Symptoms of Sleep Apnea.

    19 January 2018

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep breathing disorder associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and mortality. Although OSA is fairly heritable (~40%), there have been only few studies looking into the genetics of OSA. In the present study, we aimed to identify genetic variants associated with symptoms of sleep apnea by performing a whole-exome sequence meta-analysis of symptoms of sleep apnea in 1,475 individuals of European descent. We identified 17 rare genetic variants with at least suggestive evidence of significance. Replication in an independent dataset confirmed the association of a rare genetic variant (rs2229918; minor allele frequency = 0.3%) with symptoms of sleep apnea (p-valuemeta = 6.98 × 10-9, βmeta = 0.99). Rs2229918 overlaps with the 3' untranslated regions of ERCC1 and CD3EAP genes on chromosome 19q13. Both genes are expressed in tissues in the neck area, such as the tongue, muscles, cartilage and the trachea. Further, CD3EAP is localized in the nucleus and mitochondria and involved in the tumor necrosis factor-alpha/nuclear factor kappa B signaling pathway. Our results and biological functions of CD3EAP/ERCC1 genes suggest that the 19q13 locus is interesting for further OSA research.

  • Genome-wide linkage and haplotype sharing analysis implicates the MCDR3 locus as a candidate region for a developmental macular disorder in association with digit abnormalities.

    15 February 2018

    BACKGROUND: Developmental macular disorders are a heterogeneous group of rare retinal conditions that can cause significant visual impairment from childhood. Among these disorders, autosomal dominant North Carolina macular dystrophy (NCMD) has been mapped to 6q16 (MCDR1) with recent support for a non-coding disease mechanism of PRDM13. A second locus on 5p15-5p13 (MCDR3) has been implicated in a similar phenotype, but the disease-causing mechanism still remains unknown. METHODS: Two families affected by a dominant developmental macular disorder that closely resembles NCMD in association with digit abnormalities were included in the study. Family members with available DNA were genotyped using the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Mapping 250K Sty array. A parametric multipoint linkage analysis assuming a fully penetrant dominant model was performed using MERLIN. Haplotype sharing analysis was carried out using the non-parametric Homozygosity Haplotype method. Whole-exome sequencing was conducted on selected affected individuals. RESULTS: Linkage analysis excluded MCDR1 from the candidate regions (LOD < -2). There was suggestive linkage (LOD = 2.7) at two loci, including 9p24.1 and 5p15.32 that overlapped with MCDR3. The haplotype sharing analysis in one of the families revealed a 5 cM shared IBD segment at 5p15.32 (p value = 0.004). Whole-exome sequencing did not provide conclusive evidence for disease-causing alleles. CONCLUSIONS: These findings do not exclude that this phenotype may be allelic with NCMD MCDR3 at 5p15 and leave the possibility of a non-coding disease mechanism, in keeping with recent findings on 6q16. Further studies, including whole-genome sequencing, may help elucidate the underlying genetic cause of this phenotype and shed light on macular development and function.