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Gluten Free Recipe:
Blueberry Caprese Salad
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
- 6 ounces (1 cup) fresh blueberries
- 8 ounces mozzarella balls (ciliegine or bocconcini), halved or cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Combine tomatoes, blueberries, and mozzarella balls in a bowl. Toss with basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made a few hours ahead of time, just cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.)
By Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
Recipe URL: http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2015/07/blueberry-caprese-salad.html
Thursday, August 17, 2017
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Unlocking the barrier: Surprising role of omega-3 fatty acids in keeping the blood-brain barrier closed
- May 5, 2017
- Harvard Medical School
Already extolled for their health benefits as a food compound, omega-3 fatty acids now appear to also play a critical role in preserving the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, which protects the central nervous system from blood-borne bacteria, toxins and other pathogens, according to new research from Harvard Medical School.
Reporting in the May 3 issue of Neuron, a team led by Chenghua Gu, associate professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, describes the first molecular explanation for how the barrier remains closed by suppressing transcytosis -- a process for transporting molecules across cells in vesicles, or small bubbles. They found that the formation of these vesicles is inhibited by the lipid composition of blood vessel cells in the central nervous system, which involves a balance between omega-3 fatty acids and other lipids maintained by the lipid transport protein Mfsd2a.
While the blood-brain barrier is a critical evolutionary mechanism that protects the central nervous system from harm, it also represents a major hurdle for delivering therapeutic compounds into the brain.
Blocking the activity of Mfsd2a may be a strategy for getting drugs across the barrier and into the brain to treat a range of disorders such as brain cancer, stroke and Alzheimer's.
"This study presents the first clear molecular mechanism for how low rates of transcytosis are achieved in central nervous system blood vessels to ensure the impermeable nature of the blood-brain barrier," Gu said. "There is still a lot we do not know about how the barrier is regulated. A better understanding of the mechanisms will allow us to begin to manipulate it, with the goal of getting therapeutics into the brain safely and effectively."
The blood-brain barrier is composed of a network of endothelial cells that line blood vessels in the central nervous system. These cells are connected by tight junctions that prevent most molecules from passing between them, including many drugs that target brain diseases. In a 2014 study published in Nature, Gu and colleagues discovered that a gene and the protein it encodes, Mfsd2a, inhibits transcytosis and is critical for maintaining the blood-brain barrier. Mice that lacked Mfsd2a, which is found only in endothelial cells in the central nervous system, had higher rates of vesicle formation and leaky barriers, despite having normal tight junctions.
In the current study, Gu, Benjamin Andreone, a neurology student at Harvard Medical School, and their colleagues examined how Mfsd2a maintains the blood-brain barrier.
Mfsd2a is a transporter protein that moves lipids containing DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil and nuts, into the cell membrane. To test the importance of this function to the barrier, the team created mice with a mutated form of Mfsd2a, in which a single amino acid substitution shut down its ability to transport DHA. They injected these mice with a fluorescent dye and observed leaky blood-brain barriers and higher rates of vesicle formation and transcytosis -- mirroring mice that completely lacked Mfsd2a.
A comparison of the lipid composition of endothelial cells in brain capillaries against those in lung capillaries -- which do not have barrier properties and do not express Mfsd2a -- revealed that brain endothelial cells had around two- to five-fold higher levels of DHA-containing lipids.
Additional experiments revealed that Mfsd2a suppresses transcytosis by inhibiting the formation of caveolae -- a type of vesicle that forms when a small segment of the cell membrane pinches in on itself. As expected, mice with normal Cav-1, a protein required for caveolae formation, and that lacked Mfsd2a exhibited higher transcytosis and leaky barriers. Mice that lacked both Mfsd2a and Cav-1, however, had low transcytosis and impermeable blood-brain barriers.
"We think that by incorporating DHA into the membrane, Mfsd2a is fundamentally changing the composition of the membrane and making it unfavorable for the formation of these specific type of caveolae," Andreone said. "Even though we observed low rates of vesicle formation and transcytosis in blood-brain barrier cells decades ago, this is the first time that a cellular mechanism can explain this phenomenon."
By revealing the role of Mfsd2a and how it controls transcytosis in the central nervous system, Gu and her colleagues hope to shed light on new strategies to open the barrier and allow drugs to enter and remain in the brain. They are currently testing the efficacy of an antibody that potentially can temporarily block the function of Msfd2a, and whether caveolae-mediated transcytosis can be leveraged to shuttle therapeutics across the barrier.
"Many of the drugs that could be effective against diseases of the brain have a hard time crossing the blood-brain barrier," Gu said. "Suppressing Mfsd2a may be an additional strategy that allows us to increase transcytosis, and deliver cargo such as antibodies against beta-amyloid or compounds that selectively attack tumor cells. If we can find a way across the barrier, the impact would be enormous."
This work was supported by The National Institutes of Health (grants F31NS090669, NS092473), the Mahoney postdoctoral fellowship, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kaneb Fellowship, Fidelity Biosciences Research Initiative and the Harvard Blavatnik Biomedical Acceleråator.
Additional authors include Brian Wai Chow, Aleksandra Tata, Baptiste Lacoste, Ayal Ben-Zvi, Kevin Bullock, Amy A. Deik, David D. Ginty and Clary B. Clish.
Harvard Medical School. "Unlocking the barrier: Surprising role of omega-3 fatty acids in keeping the blood-brain barrier closed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170505085009.htm>.
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How Technology Use Affects At-risk Adolescents
- May 3, 2017
- Duke University
More use of technology is linked to later increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
"Also, on days at-risk adolescents use technology more, they experience more conduct problems and higher ADHD symptoms compared to days they use technology less," said Madeleine J. George, a Duke Ph.D. candidate and the lead author of the study.
It's unclear whether high levels of technology use were simply a marker of elevated same-day mental health symptoms or if the use of technology exacerbated existing symptoms, said Candice Odgers, the senior author of the study and a professor in Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy.
However, the study also found that using technology was linked to some positive outcomes: On days when adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The research, published May 3 in a special issue of Child Development, looks at associations between adolescents' mental health symptoms and how much time they spent each day texting, using social media and using the Internet.
For the study, 151 young adolescents completed surveys on smartphones about their daily digital technology use. They were surveyed three times a day for a month and were assessed for mental health symptoms 18 months later. The youth participating were between 11 and 15 years old, were of a lower socioeconomic status and were at a heightened risk for mental health problems.
The adolescents spent an average of 2.3 hours a day using digital technologies. More than an hour of that time was spent texting, with the adolescents sending an average of 41 texts a day.
The researchers found that on days when adolescents used their devices more -- both when they exceeded their own normal use and when they exceeded average use by their peers -- they were more likely to experience conduct problems such as lying, fighting and other behavioral problems.
In addition, on days when adolescents used digital devices more, they had difficulty paying attention and exhibited attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms.The study also found that young adolescents who spent more time online experienced increases in conduct problems and problems with self-regulation -- the ability to control one's behavior and emotions -- 18 months later.
On the positive side, the researchers found evidence that digital technology use may be helpful to adolescents experiencing depression and anxiety. More time spent texting was associated with fewer same-day symptoms of depression and anxiety.
"This finding makes sense when you think about how kids are commonly using devices to connect with their peers and social networks," said Odgers, a faculty fellow at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.
The findings suggest contemporary youth may be using digital technology to connect in positive ways versus isolating themselves, the authors said. In the past, some research found that teenagers using digital technology were socially isolated. But at that time, only a small minority of youth were frequently online.
Odgers noted that the adolescents in the study were already at an increased risk for mental health problems regardless of digital device use. It's therefore unclear if the findings would apply to all adolescents. Because this was a correlational study, it is possible factors other than technology use could have caused the increase in mental health problems.
As rates of adolescent technology use continue to climb, more work is needed to investigate its effects, the researchers say. Odgers and George are now conducting a large study of more than 2,000 N.C. adolescents to determine how and why high digital device use predicts future problems among some adolescents. The study also looks at whether being constantly connected during adolescence could provide opportunities to improve mental health.
Duke University. "How technology use affects at-risk adolescents: More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, new study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170503080237.htm>.
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Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?)
Both sugary, diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain aging
- April 20, 2017
- Boston University
|Americans love sugar. Together we consumed nearly 11 million metric tons of it in 2016, according to the US Department of Agriculture, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks and soda.|
Now, new research suggests that excess sugar -- especially the fructose in sugary drinks -- might damage your brain. Researchers using data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) found that people who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus -- an area of the brain important for learning and memory.
But before you chuck your sweet tea and reach for a diet soda, there's more: a follow-up study found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.
Researchers are quick to point out that these findings, which appear separately in the journals Alzheimer's & Dementia and Stroke, demonstrate correlation but not cause-and-effect. While researchers caution against over-consuming either diet soda or sugary drinks, more research is needed to determine how -- or if -- these drinks actually damage the brain, and how much damage may be caused by underlying vascular disease or diabetes.
"These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it's strong data and a very strong suggestion," says Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (MED) and a faculty member at BU's Alzheimer's Disease Center, who is senior author on both papers. "It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn't seem to help."
"Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to," she adds.
Matthew Pase, a fellow in the MED neurology department and an investigator at the FHS who is corresponding author on both papers, says that excess sugar has long been associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, but little is known about its long-term effects on the human brain. He chose to study sugary drinks as a way of examining overall sugar consumption. "It's difficult to measure overall sugar intake in the diet," he says, "so we used sugary beverages as a proxy."
For the first study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia on March 5, 2017, researchers examined data, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study's Offspring and Third-Generation cohorts. (These are the children and grandchildren of the original FHS volunteers enrolled in 1948.) The researchers looked at people who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type -- soda, fruit juice, and other soft drinks -- or more than three per week of soda alone. Among that "high intake" group, they found multiple signs of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus, all risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Researchers also found that higher intake of diet soda -- at least one per day -- was associated with smaller brain volume.
In the second study, published in Stroke on April 20, 2017, the researchers, using data only from the older Offspring cohort, looked specifically at whether participants had suffered a stroke or been diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. After measuring volunteers' beverage intake at three points over seven years, the researchers then monitored the volunteers for 10 years, looking for evidence of stroke in 2,888 people over age 45, and dementia in 1,484 participants over age 60. Here they found, surprisingly, no correlation between sugary beverage intake and stroke or dementia. However, they found that people who drank at least one diet soda per day were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia.
Although the researchers took age, smoking, diet quality, and other factors into account, they could not completely control for preexisting conditions like diabetes, which may have developed over the course of the study and is a known risk factor for dementia. Diabetics, as a group, drink more diet soda on average, as a way to limit their sugar consumption, and some of the correlation between diet soda intake and dementia may be due to diabetes, as well as other vascular risk factors. However, such preexisting conditions cannot wholly explain the new findings.
"It was somewhat surprising that diet soda consumption led to these outcomes," says Pase, noting that while prior studies have linked diet soda intake to stroke risk, the link with dementia was not previously known. He adds that the studies did not differentiate between types of artificial sweeteners and did not account for other possible sources of artificial sweeteners. He says that scientists have put forth various hypotheses about how artificial sweeteners may cause harm, from transforming gut bacteria to altering the brain's perception of "sweet," but "we need more work to figure out the underlying mechanisms."
Boston University. "Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?): Both sugary, diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain aging." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420162254.htm>.