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April 20, 2011 | By:  Leyla Adali
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New Test for Motor Neuron Disease Developed in Australia!

If you've ever seen a documentary about or involving such famous people as Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrig, you know what the affects of motor neuron diseases look like. Motor neuron diseases are degenerative diseases that affect the motor neurons, therefore causing increasing muscle weakness, which gets progressively worse at an alarming rate.

Victims of these unfortunate diseases, which include ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) end up losing control of the muscles that control breathing, swallowing, and even the most basic of movement, because the disease causes negative affects on motor neurons. Most often, motor neuron diseases strike in middle age, and most people survive merely 2-5 years after the first appearance of symptoms. The only treatment for motor neuron diseases is a medication known as riluzole, which simply decelerates the disease's progression.

. However, a new test to diagnose motor neuron diseases much earlier--approximately eight months earlier, sources say--than was previously possible has been created by the entity Neuroscience Research Australia (aka NeuRA). This test is known as Threshold Tracking Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or simply TTMS. TTMS functions by determining the amount of cortical hyperexcitability in the brain through the use of magnetic stimulation. This is a good gage because the amount of electrical activity in the brain rises in the initial stages of a motor neuron disease. According to a member of NeuRA, Dr. Steve Vucic, "If we can diagnose motor neurone disease earlier, we can initiate treatment much earlier and improve the patient's quality of life. This may also translate into better efficacy of the medication used to treat motor neurone disease."

Dr. Vucic added that the test would be more efficient and exact than other tests previously developed for the same purpose, and that researchers will now be able to differentiate between a motor neuron disease and an extremely similar--but possibly not fatal--condition, therefore giving patients more assurance. Now, different research groups must validate this remarkable technique before it can be administered to the public.

Other motor neuron diseases include PLS (primary lateral sclerosis), PMA (progressive muscular atrophy), and pseudobulbar palsy.

"Researchers Develop Diagnostic Test For Motor Neurone Disease, Australia." Medical News Today. March 18, 2011

"What are Motor Neuron Diseases?" National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.

June 08, 2011 | 02:38 PM
Posted By:  Samantha Jakuboski
(Continue of previous comment)
Unfortunately, there are no cures for PLS, but patients can take medicine to relieve any pain the disease brings about. Yet, if a person has PLS, they can still expect to live to old age, because thankfully, PLS is not deadly. Many patients, however, have to spend their time in a wheelchair or walk with a cane.

June 08, 2011 | 02:38 PM
Posted By:  Samantha Jakuboski
This is a really interesting post, Leyla. I heard of the motor neuron diseases, ALS, but your blog sparked curiosity in me. After reading your blog, I decided to do my own research on other motor neuron diseases in the world, such as Primary Lateral Sclerosis. (PLS) PLS is a very rare disease that affects the upper motor neurons of a person’s body and usually strikes people over 40 years old. Symptoms include voluntary problems in the hands or legs, and trouble speaking. It is hard for doctors to diagnosis a patient with PLS because the symptoms of ALS are very similar and they don’t want to diagnosis a patient with the wrong disease. One major difference, however, between the two diseases is that patients with ALS experience “muscle wasting.”-(SPF Foundation) This is also known as amyotrophy

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