News in brief: Mysterious brain disease; Epilepsy VNS implant; MRI findings predict risk for social cognitive problems in children with AIS

13 Apr 2021

Epilepsy patients get pre-programmed VNS implant

Public hospital patients in Australia are now being treated with a new model of Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS) that can be pre programmed months in advance, according to clinicians at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.

Associate Professor Hunn, Alfred’s Head of Neurosurgery, recently implanted a new SenTiva VNS device to control or prevent seizures in a patient with drug-resistant epilepsy.

“It is great to have this option available for our patients – especially our rural patients. It’s exciting we’re the first hospital in Victoria that has access to this new device and to know we have the highly specialised neurology team for it,” he said.

Neurologists in Canada baffled by mysterious neurological syndrome

Neurologists in Canada are struggling to identify the cause of a novel neurodegenerative syndrome similar to CJD, but with no evidence of prion disease.

A growing cluster of people in the province of New Brunswick are showing symptoms such as cognitive decline, muscle atrophy and hallucinations, but without any identifiable cause, according to a report in the Guardian.

Public health experts are investigating 43 cases of the neurological syndrome that first appeared in 2015 in the remote rural province and has now been linked to five deaths.

The syndrome starts with pains, spasms and behavioural changes, followed by progressive memory loss, muscle wasting, drooling and teeth chattering.

“We have not seen over the last 20-plus years a cluster of diagnosis-resistant neurological disease like this one,” said Michael Coulthart, head of Canada’s CJD surveillance network.

MRI findings predict risk for social cognitive problems in children with AIS

A cluster of acute MRI findings in children who experience arterial ischaemic stroke (AIS) could help clinicians identify children at elevated risk for social cognitive dysfunction later in life, suggests new research.

It’s the first study to examine social cognition in children who have experienced early ischaemic brain insults say researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Institute in Melbourne who investigated AIS on facial emotion recognition and theory of mind abilities in some 67 children including 30 with AIS and 37 age-matched typical developing children.

Acute clinical magnetic resonance imaging, including diffusion-weighted imaging sequences, were used to look at prospective structure-function relationships between acute lesion characteristics and long-term social cognitive abilities.

Compared to aged matched typically developing controls, children with AIS showed significantly worse performance on measures of basic facial emotion processing, cognitive theory of mind (ToM) abilities, and affective ToM.

Researchers say poorer ToM was associated with larger infarcts, combined cortical-subcortical pathology, and involvement of multiple arterial territories. Meanwhile, larger lesions and multiterritory infants were predictive of ToM processing but not facial emotion recognition. Poorer cognitive ToM predicted less frequent prosocial behaviour and increased peer problems, they said.

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