Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cognitive Dysfunction An Issue? Check Your TNF

image by juliaf,

This Protein Is In Excess In The Brain Fluid Of Affected

Are you forgetful? After hearing the caller's name on the other end of the phone, do you struggle to remember what their name was, after you kept the phone on its cradle after the conversation was over? Do you fret over where you had located the file the boss had given you the other day for safekeeping, and spend the rest of the afternoon searching for it everywhere in your cubicle or cabin, including calling up your friend with whom you spent the previous day's evening? Do you often forget that there is something you had kept in the oven or on the gas stove a long, long time ago; and only when nostrils smell that awful aroma that you realize your mistake?

image by cbicenhour,

Is concentration becoming an issue? A task that you could perform even while asleep is now gradually becoming a chore? A counselee was pulled up after it was observed that she kept posting vouchers in wrong accounts on the computer. She was ultimately transferred to a less cognitively-taxing job. Yet another counselee was fired from his job after he repeatedly made mistakes in counting the cash he used to collect and deposit to the accounts manager - he was suspected of doing it deliberately. It was the honesty he had been practicing in the decades of his service prior to the recent episodes of miscomputations - which prevented the management from initiating any legal action against him.

image by juliaf,

It is not surprising to see such people finding themselves increasingly at discomfort in handling activities that were rudimentary and basic up until a few months ago. Usually there is some other accompanying medical condition - such as sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis - that aggravates matters. Things come to such a pass that there is always certain self-doubt about one's abilities: what if I forget? Or what if I do it wrong? One starts covering up one's gaffes with self-deprecating humor, and this humorous style then starts surfacing even before the gaffes happen. That's a sure-shot sign usually that self-confidence has begun deteriorating. Withdrawal from one's usual circle of friends and the usual banter over the phone come to a stop. Family members and friends sadly can do no more than empathize.

image by poofy,

In the midst of this fog of helplessness comes some light in the form of news of an intervention therapy that promises to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction. It was observed that the brain fluid of people with cognitive decline has an abundance of a protein known as TNF-alpha (or Tumor necrosis factor-alpha). In its benign avatar, TNF polices the immune cell movement. It triggers the programmed death of cells (known in medical parlance as apoptosis), besides a variety of other roles. But due to some unknown reason, the TNF sometimes transforms from benign to malignant. Its malignancy manifests in the form of cognitive dysfunction. The solution? Anti-TNF therapy.

image by cathyk,

In a recent study published in the journal "Joint Bone Spine", eight patients were administered Etanercept injections twice weekly, and seven patients were administered Adalimumab injections twice monthly. All the fifteen patients were 70+, from both genders. The patients scored better on MMSE, post therapy compared to the pre-therapy stage.

image by zeathiel,

So, is anti-TNF therapy the new miracle medicine? Not yet. There are several ifs-and-buts that need to be worked out, not least of all being the impact that TNF suppression causes on the rest of the physiology. Sifting through the ifs and the buts, perhaps some small population may still find the therapy useful, and side-effect-free?

image by ctalbot,

While on the subject of cognitive dysfunction and how one can improve one's cognitive abilities, here is an interesting thread on the self-development forum that discusses the outcome of a recent clinical trial conducted in the UK on brain games that claim to improve overall brain capability:

image by porah,

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