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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Mini-Med School: The Brain Q & A

The following questions and answers relate to the May 2006  Mini-Med School: The Brain .

Question: Is there a correlation between Parkinson's Disease and alcohol abuse?   
Answer: A review of current literature shows no apparent link between alcohol abuse and Parkinson's Disease.

Question: What does "Trophic" mean?
Answer: Pertaining to nutrition or to a position in a food web, food chain, or food pyramid.

Question: What medicines are used for tremor?
Answer: Multiple medications are widely available for the treatment of tremors. Some of the most common names are: Inderal, Mysoline, Neurotin, Botulinum toxin. This is very specific to your case. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider.

Question: In DBS, how often do the pacemakers and electrodes need to replaced?
Answer: The battery inside the IPG lasts from three to five years. When the battery wears out, the patient will need minor surgery to replace the IPG.   

Question: What is Tardive dyskinesia?
Answer: Tardive dyskinesia is a neurological syndrome caused by the long-term use of neuroleptic drugs. Tardive dyskinesia is characterized by repetitive, involuntary, purposeless movements. Features of the disorder may include grimacing, tongue protrusion, lip smacking, puckering and pursing, and rapid eye blinking. Rapid movements of the arms, legs, and trunk may also occur. Involuntary movements of the fingers may appear as though the patient is playing an invisible guitar or piano. For more information visit the National Institutes of Health Web site.

Question: What is a beta-blocker?  
Answer: Beta-blockers are most commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). Some beta-blockers are also used to relieve angina (chest pain) and in heart attack patients to help prevent additional heart attacks. Beta -blockers are also used to correct irregular heartbeat, prevent migraine headaches, and treat tremors. Beta-blockers work by affecting the response to some nerve impulses in certain parts of the body. As a result, they decrease the heart's need for blood and oxygen by reducing its workload. They also help the heart to beat more regularly. For more information visit the National Institutes of Health Web site.    

Question: What is normal pressure hydrocephaly and what are the symptoms? Is it the same or different from Alzheimer's?
Answer: Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is an abnormal increase of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain's ventricles, or cavities. It occurs if the normal flow of CSF throughout the brain and spinal cord is blocked in some way. This causes the ventricles to enlarge, putting pressure on the brain. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in the elderly population. It may result from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, head trauma, infection, tumor, or complications of surgery. However, many people develop NPH even when none of these factors are present. In these cases the cause of the disorder is unknown. Symptoms of NPH include progressive mental impairment and dementia, problems with walking, and impaired bladder control leading to urinary frequency and/or incontinence. The person also may have a general slowing of movements or may complain that his or her feet feel "stuck." Because these symptoms are similar to those of other disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the disorder is often misdiagnosed. For more information visit the National Institutes of Health Web site.

Question: What is Friedrich's ataxia and how does it fit with chorea?
Answer: The real connection between Friedrich's Ataxia and Huntington's Chorea is that they are both inherited, progressive diseases of the nervous system.  Huntington's Chorea appears in adults while Friedrich's Ataxia usually appears between the ages of 5 and 15.

Question: Restless legs syndrome - Any suggestions for easing the symptoms in a person with mild discomfort (difficulty sleeping)?
Answer: Lifestyle changes can improve and relieve symptoms of RLS. Some lifestyle changes that may help include avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine (in foods as well as drinks).  Adopt good sleep habits.  Follow a program of moderate exercise. Some persons suffering from this also recommend warm baths, warm packs and walking or stretching.  For more information visit the National Institutes of Health Web site.

Question: Can glioblastoma be reversed using scorpion venom?
Answer: There has been some exploration of this in the United States and France but it is VERY preliminary and at this time being tested in animals.  The concept is that the venom could potentially block molecule movement in and out of malignant cells in hope of destroying them.

Question: Are there individuals who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or other Dementias that improve on their own?  
Answer: No. AD is a slow disease, starting with mild memory problems and ending with severe brain damage. The course the disease takes and how fast changes occur varies greatly. On average, AD patients live from 8 to 10 years after they are diagnosed, though some people may live with AD for as many as 20 years.

No treatment can stop AD. However, for some people in the early and middle stages of the disease, the drugs tacrine (Cognex), donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), or galantamine (Razadyne, previously known as Reminyl) may help prevent some symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time. Another drug, memantine (Namenda), has been approved to treat moderate to severe AD, although it also is limited in its effects. Also, some medicines may help control behavioral symptoms of AD such as sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, and depression. Treating these symptoms often makes patients more comfortable and makes their care easier for caregivers.

For more information, visit or contact the Health Learning Center:

251 East Huron
Galter Suite 3-304
312-926-5465
hlc@nmh.org

Last UpdateMarch 5, 2012
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