Stem Cells (CD34+) and Functional Recovery Post-Stroke (Initial Work)

14 Aug


A recent study by a group from NHS Imperial College Healthcare in London has found a possible treatment for acute ischemic stroke using a patient’s own stem cells.

The use of stem cells, specifically CD34+ hematopoietic cells, has been shown to promote neurogenisis and angiogenesis, thereby improving functional recovery after stroke in non human models but this represents the first trial of its kind in humans.

The CD34+ cells were harvested from the bone marrow of five acute severe stroke patients. The cells were then infused into the carotid artery of these patients within seven days of stroke onset. The initial reasoning for the study was to test tolerance and safety of the procedure however, a significant side benefit was noted. All patients showed improvements on clinical tests over the six month follow up period, with three of five being independent in ADLs.

Interestingly, authors do not seem to suggest…

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FENS Forum 2014

24 Jul

The 9th meeting of the FENS Forum was help in July of this year in Milan, Italy and saw three of our lab members (Dr. Richard Roche, Francesca Farina and Kate Forte) in attendance. The conference played host to over 6,000 delegates from all across the world and consisted of 5 days of intensive sessions, workshops and lectures on numerous aspects of neuroscience, mainly in the animal and molecular spheres. Topics included sleep, addiction, attention, Alzheimer’s disease and many others besides, giving the conference a wide scope of subject material designed to facilitate the majority to at least some degree.
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The Plenary lectures were very interesting with talks from Ray Dolan on reward and value and Yang Dan on the neuromodulation of brain states as well as many others. Other events and lectures included the Neuroscience of taste and a ‘Big Questions in Neuroscience’ session which explored and discussed important issues and questions related to Neuroscience as a whole, practically, theoretically and conceptually. FENS 2014 also played host to the first ‘International Synapse Championship’ which was as delightfully nerdy as it sounds and basically involved quick fire naming of all proteins involved in the synapse or synaptic transmission. I was in way over my head and didn’t understand any of the in-jokes but it was good fun and really laid back which was a nice change from the typical conference formality.
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Francesca presented her poster entitled ‘Training Dependent Changes in Spatial Memory Retention Correlate With a Region Shift in Immediate Early Gene Expression’ and Kate, her poster entitled ‘An Evaluation of the Efficacy of Visual and Auditory Interventions on Pseudoneglect’. Both were very well received, particularly Francesca’s which garnered lots of attention from other delegates and kept her talking well past her designated hour. Dr. Roche also presented a poster in the neuroscience advocacy section of the conference which remained on display throughout.

Overall the conference was good, well organised and interesting, albeit a little lacking in human related research and symposia. The city of Milan is also a wonderful place with many attractions and museums to visit when not doing science which we made excellent use of. Congratulations to all the lab members who presented their work and performed well.

Brain Art Competition 2014 & Congratulations to Dr. Richard Roche

23 Jun

Congratulations to our own Dr. Richard Roche on his winning piece in this year’s Brain Art Competition hosted by the Neuro Bureau.

Dr. Richard Roche’s piece, entitled “The Isle of Cortica” is a Brain Art Map bringing together his strong ongoing interest in combining science and art.


The piece was “strongly influenced by the Nick Cave Riddle Map by GANDesign Art Studio ( and by the maps of JRR Tolkein for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It contains 28 references to significant facts, persons or discoveries from the history of neuroscience and neuropsychology. You can view the map and see all 28 references explained here: Sincere thanks to Francesca Farina of NUI Maynooth for useful discussions and suggestions for content.”

Young Neuroscience Symposium 2014

16 Jun

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The recent joining of FENS by Neuroscience Ireland has meant that the organisation is not allowed to host a full meeting this year as the FENS main meeting is being held this July. As a result a group of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers from universities across the country have come together under the NI banner to arrange this symposium. The committee have designed this one day event for early career researchers as a forum to disseminate our research through poster presentations and oral communications which wouldn’t normally be allocated to researchers at this level in bigger meetings.

The Young Neuroscience Symposium (YNS) will take place on the 20th of September in the Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin. Registration is now open and will remain open until the 5th of July. Cost of registration for NI members is €21.

Registration is open to all those engaged in  any aspect of neuroscience research in Ireland, be it in engineering, chemistry, computer science; human, animal, molecular or modelling. We want you to take part and share your interesting research with us. The idea behind YNS is to create an engaging, welcoming atmosphere in which early career researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplines can disseminate findings, discuss methods and build inter-disciplinary, inter-departmental and inter-institutional connections. It also offers a great networking opportunity and a chance to build collaborations and get a different perspective on your own research.

There will also be two keynote addresses delivered on the day by  Prof. Michael Heneka (University of Bonn, Germany) and Prof. Alan Sanfey (Radboud University, Netherlands) and a workshop session focusing on career development. Please check out the website below for any more information and email any queries not on the FAQ page to where we will be happy to answer them.

Hope to see you in September!

Bilingualism and Cognitive Ageing

6 Jun


Ciao, come stai? Dua dhuit, conas atá tu? Bonjour, ca va? Hello, how are you?

I’m sure we all have memories (painful for some) of learning foreign languages in school and the scientific literature is packed with studies examining the impact of learning that second language on various aspects of cognition. A new study conducted by Thomas Bak and colleagues and published in the Annals of Neurology, examined baseline cognitive performance in later life in mono- versus bilinguals, controlling for certain confounds that exist in other studies of this kind.

Much of the previous research into bilingualism uses cohorts of bilinguals from various cultures and environments as well as with various education standards. This can introduce integral confounds such as immigration, differences in the environment they grew up in and ethnic differences. In order to minimise these possible confounds this study made use of the Lothian birth cohort (1936); a relatively homogenous group of 1091 participants who were given an intelligence test at the age of 11 and then again between 2008 and 2010. All are non-immigrant native English speakers who were born and grew up around the city of Edinburgh, Scotland and are all of European origin. This relatively homogenous group allowed authors to examine the impact of bilingualism on later cognitive performance and to adjust for childhood intelligence (CI) while almost eliminating the other potential confounds. Authors also took socio-economic status (SES) and sex into account.

Results suggest that learning a second language has a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline independent of CI and unaffected by SES or sex. Specifically they found a greater effect in reading, verbal fluency and general intelligence compared to memory, reasoning and speed of processing in bilinguals.

They also looked at timepoint of acquisition for the second language and found differences in those who learned their second language early versus late, contingent on childhood intelligence levels. High CI individuals benefited more from early acquisition and low CI from late, but both were still positive effects over mono-lingual participants. Interestingly, they also concluded that learning 3 languages was better than 2.

As with much research there were issues and limitations, such as knowledge of language which was assess via questionnaire not proficiency being one. But this represents an interesting window into the positive effect of bilingualism in cognitive functioning later in life and makes use of an interesting sample population.

Read the full article here: