Monday, October 20, 2008

Altering brain chemistry through dietary means: implications from Alzheimer’s research

A BBC Science article on the animal Alzheimer studies caught my attention because of the reference to altering brain function through dietary changes. Emphases mine …

BBC NEWS | Health | Fatty acids clue to Alzheimer's

Controlling the level of a fatty acid in the brain could help treat Alzheimer's disease, an American study has suggested.

Tests on mice showed that reducing excess levels of the acid lessened animals' memory problems and behavioural changes.

Writing in Nature Neuroscience, the team said fatty acid levels could be controlled through diet or drugs

… Scientists from Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and the University of California looked at fatty acids in the brains of normal mice and compared them with those in mice genetically engineered to have an Alzheimer's-like condition.

They identified raised levels of a fatty acid called arachidonic acid in the brains of the Alzheimer's mice …

… Its release is controlled by the PLA2 enzyme.

The scientists again used genetic engineering to lower PLA2 levels in the animals, and found that even a partial reduction halted memory deterioration and other impairments.

Dr Rene Sanchez-Mejia, who worked on the study, said: "The most striking change we discovered in the Alzheimer's mice was an increase in arachidonic acid and related metabolites [products] in the hippocampus, a memory centre that is affected early and severely by Alzheimer's disease."

He suggested too much arachidonic acid might over-stimulate brain cells, and that lowering levels allowed them to function normally…

I doubt this will end up being all that important for Alzheimer’s prevention, but it’s interesting as another hint that we might be able to alter behavior in children and adults with cognitive and behavior disorders through dietary interventions.

I tried looking for more discussions on this general topic, but I found very little. Seems far fetched for now, but I’ll keep an eye open.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Diary of a Special Ed Teacher

Just found this one through a NYT essay "Miss Dennis" wrote - Your Mama's Mad Tedious: Diary of a Special Ed Teacher. I'll be reading the back posts and subscribing to the feed.

I hope to do a post on her NYT article, she does repeat the article in her blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

OpenOffice for OS X: touts accessibility

I'm impressed that their accessibility support is a touted feature: www: 3.0 New Features: " integrates well with the Mac OS X accessibility APIs, and thus offers better accessibility support than many other Mac OS X applications."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Accessibility solutions for OS X

Apple has long been a distant 2nd when it comes to accessibility solutions. Microsoft has put more effort into a reasonable foundation, and 3rd party vendors have built on top of Microsoft's base.

Recently, though, Apple has tried a bit harder. Legal threats from several states and fears of being shut out of the education market may have provided valuable motivation. (See: section 508.)

For example, OS X 10.5 has an improved screen reader, though Apple still has a long way to go. On the other hand persons with joint and motor disorders want robust voice commands and speech-to-text recognition -- but OS X provides only the feeble and under-developed "Speech Commands" tool.

In addition to the improved OS X accessibility page (still heavy on the marketing) Apple now has a 3rd party OS X accessibility page. Unfortunately, some of the solutions are only mildly related to accessibility and a few are basically web services that work on any reasonably browser.

There's a general accessibility page for all Apple products with some links I'll explore, such as the lioncourt blog.

At the moment I'm focusing on things I can do with for my mother, but the combination of poor vision, bad joint disease and limited sensation puts things beyond what Apple can do. Now if she had a way to say "open mail" and "read messages" and then listen to the messages ...

Harcourt family learning series - useful

We've been using the Harcourt Family Learning Complete Curriculum books with our kids, including one child who's disabilities make reading and math pretty darned hard.

I'm happy with them. has a pretty good list of the books. The books were published by "Spark Publishing" (Flash Kids), but their web site is gone. I suspect they're no more. I can't find any evidence anyone else is publishing these.

The reading and math exercises are interesting enough and quite polished. The Grade 3 level readings are reasonably interesting to our 11 yo boy; it's tough to find that kind of age interesting/readable combination anywhere else.

Recommended if you can find 'em! We have the "complete curriculum" for grades 1, 3 and 4.