Discovery may help target Alzheimer’s better

July 26th, 2012 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 26 (IANS) Panic disorders and Alzheimer’s can be treated more effectively by targeting a new brain area that specialises in peripheral vision, according to a research.

Researchers led by Hsin-Hao Yu and Marcello Rosa, professor of physiology from Monash University, made the discovery that a brain area, known as prostriata, was specialised in detecting fast-moving objects in peripheral vision.

This area, located in a primitive part of the cerebral cortex, has characteristics unlike any other visual area described before, including a “direct line” of communication to brain areas controlling emotion and quick reactions, the journal Current Biology reported.

Hsin-Hao said the discovery, identified during the development of the Monash Vision Group’s bionic eye, could lead to new treatments for panic disorders such as agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and may extend into other medical areas including Alzheimer’s treatment, according to a university statement.

“This area is likely to be hyperactive in panic disorder, with agoraphobia. This knowledge could lead to treatment options for the hyperactivity, and therefore sensitivity to such disorders, particularly the fear of open spaces,” said Hsin-Hao.

“Correlation with previous studies also shows that prostriata is one of the first areas affected in Alzheimer’s disease. This knowledge helps to explain spatial disorientation and the tendency to fall, which are among the earliest signs of a problem associated with Alzheimer’s.”

Rosa said this area had ultra-fast responses to visual stimuli, simultaneously broadcasting information to brain areas that control attention, emotional and motor reactions. This challenges current conceptions of how the brain processes visual information.

“This suggests a specialised brain circuit through which stimuli in peripheral vision can be fast-tracked to command quickly coordinated physical and emotional responses,” Rosa said.

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