Epigenetic mechanism in drug addiction
Willie Daniels (PhD, MBA)
School of Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand
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Epigenetics refer to the post-translational modifications of DNA that has now been shown to impact on the behavior of individuals. The most common of these modifications are the methylation of DNA nucleotides, and in particular cytosine, and histone acetylation. However histone phosphorylation, ubiquitylation and ADP ribosylation have also been reported. Substances of abuse have one mechanism in common in that they all activate the mesocorticolimbic pathway and lead to an increase in dopamine transmission. Dopamine, in conjunction with glutamate, results in elevated calcium levels intraneuronally in brain areas relevant to addictive behavior. This increased calcium levels result in the activation of cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB) that in turn leads to the activation of the immediate early gene c-fos. CREM has recently been described as a member of the CREB family of proteins that is important in modulating impulsivity associated with addictive behavior. We have studied epigenetic changes in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of cocaine exposed male and female rats and found that CREM and c-Fos are hypermethylated in the hippocampus and hypomethylated in the prefrontal cortex of both genders. Interestingly the offspring had different epigenetic alterations to their of addicted parents.


Athletes eat food, not nutrients…
Nicki de Villiers
High Performance Center, University of Pretoria
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Nutritional science has demonstrated that properly planned nutrition and hydration strategies can help athletes improve performance, recovery, decrease illness and promote training adaptations. Specific recommendations for daily energy, carbohydrate, protein and fat intake have been established for athletes participating in a variety of sporting codes. Recommendations related to the composition and quantity of immediate pre-exercise meals and snacks, as well as nutritional strategies for intake during exercise and post-exercise recovery has also been proposed. Nutritional recommendations should be translated into practical advice regarding food choices in which athletes are advised to consume a balanced diet through the intake of a variety of food sources. Focusing on moderation and proportionality in the context of a healthy lifestyle and optimal exercise performance, rather than targeting specific nutrients, can help reduce consumer confusion and prevent unnecessary reliance on supplements.


To abstain or not to abstain…..that is the question
SS du Plessis
Medical Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa

Variations in the ejaculatory abstinence durations suggested by different guidance bodies have resulted in a growing concern among researchers over what the precise period of ejaculatory abstinence for an optimal semen sample ought to be. Several studies have been undertaken to examine the association between the length of sexual abstinence and semen characteristics. However, not all studies have come to the same conclusions. This paper aims to not only provide a comprehensive overview of the existing literature published during the past two decades, but will furthermore allude to the latest research findings from my laboratory on the topic of the influence of ejaculatory abstinence on semen quality. The weight of the evidence suggests that the decline in semen volume and sperm concentration with shorter abstinence periods is accompanied by a substantial improvement in sperm motility characteristics, especially progressive motility and velocity. Available data are insufficient to support definitive conclusions regarding the influence of ejaculatory abstinence on advanced semen parameters (ROS, DNA fragmentation and seminal plasma antioxidant capacity) and pregnancy rates. However, when taking all data into account shortening of the abstinence period could be beneficial to sperm quality. It is furthermore recommended that the current guidelines regarding the prescribed abstinence period should be revisited.


The tumour-microenvironment: Is the reverse Warburg effect an Achilles heel which can be exploited for cancer therapy?
Anna-Mart Engelbrecht
Dept of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University
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Although the short term survival outcomes have been improved dramatically via conventional chemotherapy, most patients ultimately experience a relapse with limited second-line therapeutic regimens available, lowered success rates and therefore decreased survival rates. In addition, patients receiving chemotherapy often experience a number of serious adverse effects which need to be overcome.  Accumulated evidence also demonstrates that aberrant glucose metabolism, termed the Warburg effect, which suggests that even in the presence of sufficient oxygen, malignant cells prefer to produce ATP via glycolysis instead of OXPHOs, is closely associated with malignant phenotypes. However, recent clinical studies have demonstrated that mitochondrial respiration increased significantly in breast cancer samples which implies that the Warburg effect is not a general feature of all cancers – heterogeneous tumour cells exhibit flexible metabolic phenotypes even in a single tumour mass. Furthermore, it is now also well established that the tumour-microenvironment plays a key role in carcinogenesis. Interactions between cancer cells and surrounding cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) highly affect the growth, metabolism, metastasis and progression of the tumour which lead to the proposal of a new model, named the “reverse Warburg effect” to reconsider metabolism in the tumour. We therefore aim to exploit this new viewpoint for improving existent anti-cancer therapeutic strategies.


Cochlear implants: Basic research
Prof Johan Hanekom
University of Pretoria
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Cochlear implants (CIs) are medical devices that are implanted to provide a measure of auditory perception to profoundly deaf people. They elicit auditory sensations by electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. While commercially available cochlear implants are safe and reliable medical devices, speech perception is far from normal. Present-day CIs provide listeners who had very little or no residual hearing with access to sufficient acoustic cues for successful perception of many auditory stimuli, and many CI recipients display remarkable success with open set speech recognition in quiet. However, daily spoken communication occurs in at least some degree of background noise. Cochlear implant users have great difficulty listening in these non-ideal circumstances, and generally prefer not to listen to music. In broad terms, basic cochlear implant research focusses on developing an understanding of what underlies speech and music perception in the electrically-stimulated auditory system. Some of the lines of basic research of Bioengineering at the University of Pretoria will be discussed in the presentation.


Cochlear implants: Translational research
Prof Tania Hanekom
University of Pretoria
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An important determinant for success with a cochlear implant is the effectiveness of the integration between the neural elements and the technology. This biophysical interface at the periphery of the auditory system is governed by user-specific factors such as neural survival patterns, cochlear morphology and intracochlear electrode location. While computational models that describe the volume conduction properties of the cochlea have been used in combination with models of neural excitation to explore this interface, these models have recently started to find application in the clinical domain. The models may be applied to (i) predict programming parameters for the devices on a user-specific level, (ii) as a diagnostic tool to investigate the mechanisms of complications that may arise as a result of the use of cochlear implants and to assess different treatment options and (iii) to serve as a high-resolution imaging tool to augment low-resolution computerised tomography (CT) images. Our work towards the translation of models from the lab to the clinic will be reviewed in this presentation.


The Physiological Effect of Exercise on Joint Health
Christa Janse van Rensburg
University of Pretoria
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Joints play a major role in all activities of daily living. In case of rheumatological disease the joints are the main target of the pathology, but there is also a systemic component of inflammation (especially elevated TNF). This lecture will cover normal joint physiology, how the joint is targeted by rheumatological disease and lastly the physiological effect of exercise on both the joint and systemic inflammation


Brain-over-Heart matter or Tako-Tsubo
James Ker
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This condition was first described in 1990 in Japan, but is now recognized globally. There are different names which will be mentioned. The clinical manifestations will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on the physiological possible mechanisms between the brain and the heart and the role of severe stress, either emotional or physical, triggering this condition will be discussed. ?Is it a stressed brain or a stressed heart.


Ageing with bilateral spastic Cerebral Palsy: 30years after first neurosurgical intervention
Nelleke G. Langerak
Division of Neurosurgery, University of Cape Town
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Cerebral palsy (CP) is known as a leading cause of disability in childhood. About 80% of patients with CP are diagnosed with the spastic type. Since spasticity leads to secondary abnormalities, it is important to treat spasticity with insight in the early childhood years to prevent secondary problems during a person’s lifespan. The neurosurgical procedure known as selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) has particular appeal as it reduces lower extremity spasticity by transecting a percentage of lumbar rootlets, which interrupts the abnormal reflex arc at the spinal cord level that maintains spasticity. This procedure was first described in humans in the early 1900’s, but had limited acceptance until it was refined and reintroduced by Professor Warwick Peacock at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, in the early 1980’s. A large number of studies have demonstrated the benefits of this neurosurgical procedure. However, these conclusions were based on assessments performed within the first few years after surgery. Therefore, the question remains: what will happen when these patients with CP become adults? Dr Langerak will provide an overview of the long-term outcomes of SDR in children with spastic CP, including the experiences in Cape Town based on a 1, 3, 10, 20 and 30year follow-up studies with gait, neuromuscular and functional outcome measures.


Autophagy Proficiency Revealed – A Super-Resolution Approach
Ben Loos
Dept of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
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Dysfunctional autophagy is associated with a multitude of human diseases, such as protein aggregation in Alzheimer’s disease. Major interest exists in the manipulation of the pathway activity, so as to tune the cell’s protein degradation capabilities. One of the major tools to assess the molecular components of the autophagy pathway is fluorescence confocal microscopy. The usual approach to assess the localization of proteins of interest is limited by the resolving power, which is dictated by wavelength and light gathering angle of the objective, omitting to resolve particularly intracellular structures. Recent breakthroughs in super-resolution microscopy techniques have enabled sub-diffraction imaging, achieving enhanced resolution down to 20 nm. However, the autophagy machinery has not been assessed in this manner and remains poorly resolved. Here, we employ a super-resolution approach based on structured illumination microscopy (SR-SIM) and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to map key components of the autophagy machinery. Our results reveal a distinct and unique molecular density pattern of the autophagosomal as well as lysosomal organellar structure. This pattern reveals finely organized membrane structures with distinct protein clusters. Moreover, the fusion interface between autophagosomes and lysosomes appears highly dynamic, with a morphology that suggests highly fluidic membrane interactions.
Super-resolution microscopy enables the characterization of the autophagy machinery at a previously unknown resolution, revealing masked membrane morphology. Single molecule detection allows to employ quantitative approaches to map molecular density profiles of pathway intermendiates or proteins of interest. Future research is required to completely map this pathway with its molecular components, to better align autophagy machinery activity and protein cargo flux in physiology diseases of proteotoxicity.


The brain-heart axis and ischemic heart disease risk: the SABPA prospective study
Leoné Malan
Mark Hamer (PhD), Roland von Känel (MD), Gavin Lambert (PhD), Rhena Delport (RN, PhD), Faans Steyn (DSc), Nicolaas T Malan (DSc).
1Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
2National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, United Kingdom
3Department of Neurology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, and University of Bern Switzerland
4Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute and Central Clinical School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
5Chemical pathology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
6Statistical Consultation Services; North-West University; Potchefstroom; South Africa
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Aims: Sympatho-adrenal responses are activated during emotional stress. Whether these sympatho-adrenal responses drive cardiac Troponin T (cTnT) and blood pressure (BP) increases are unknown. We aimed to examine the associations between disturbed sympatho-adrenal responses and cTnT.
Methods and Results: A bi-ethnic cohort (N=342; 45.6±9.0 years old) was followed for 3 years, excluding individuals with atrial fibrillation and a history of myocardial infarction/stroke. We measured Coping-Strategy–Indicator scores, urinary catecholamines, clinic and ambulatory BP, 24h ECG and serum high-sensitive cTnT values. At baseline, prevalence of hypertension was 67% in Blacks compared to 42 % in Whites. A receiver-operating-characteristics cTnT cut-point of 4.2 ng/L was associated with clinic and ambulatory 24h hypertension in Blacks [AUC 0.68 (95% CI 0.60-0.76); sensitivity/specificity 63/70%; P=0.001], which was used in further analyses to determine associated sympatho-adrenal responses. At baseline, Defensive coping [OR 1.34 (95% CI 0.98-1.83); P=0.06]; 24h BP [OR 1.03-1.04 (95% CI 1.01-1.08) P=0.02] and depressed standard deviation of RR interval risk (<100ms) [OR 2.19 (95% CI 1.09-4.41); P=0.03] were related to elevated cTnT in Blacks. At follow-up, an attenuated urine norepinephrine:creatinine ratio was related to elevated cTnT in Blacks [OR 1.46 (95% CI 1.01-2.10); P=0.04]. In Whites, a cut point of 5.6 ng/L cTnT (P=0.001) was derived from 24h hypertension but this was not associated with sympatho-adrenal responses.
Conclusion: Desensitized sympatho-adrenal responses exemplified central neural- (HRV) and endocrine control (Norepinephrine:Creatinine) in relation to elevated cTnT. Chronic defensiveness may have driven desensitization, reflecting the risk of chronic emotional stress for ischemic heart disease in Blacks.


Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Current Perspectives
Helgard Meyer
Department of Family Medicine, University of Pretoria

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a common disorder of chronic widespread musculo-skeletal pain with a prevalence of 2-8% in the population (depending on the diagnostic criteria used). FMS patients often also complain of chronic fatigue, recurrent headaches, sleep disturbance and cognitive symptoms. Common co-morbidities in FMS patients include irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and interstitial cystitis. Approximately 20-40% of FMS patients have an identifiable current mood disorder (mostly depression) but many individuals with FMS do not have a definable psychiatric disorder. Failure to recognise FMS often leads to over-investigation and inappropriate referrals and FMS patients have a high rate of utilisation of medical services.
FMS is currently regarded as a disorder of abnormal sensory processing due to central sensitization and/or a deficient pain inhibitory system which leads to pain amplification. Studies measuring levels of neurotransmitters in serum, urine or cerebrospinal fluid samples from FMS patients suggest that dysfunctions in substance P, serotonin and nor-adrenaline may be involved in the etiology of FMS.
FMS is a highly familial disorder and several candidate genes involved in pain transmission have been implicated in the etiology of FMS. Increased levels of IL-6 and other cytokines in FMS patients suggest an element of neuro-inflammation in FMS patients probably through glial cell activation. The endocannabinoid system plays a complex role in pain modulation and it has been hypothesized that FMS may constitute an endocannabinoid deficiency disorder.
In the absence of an objective biomarker, the diagnosis of FMS is currently based on a comprehensive clinical assessment using the 2010 American College of Rheumatology criteria.
Pharmacological strategies are more effective when utilised as part of a multimodal approach which integrates an individualized exercise programme, patient education, cognitive behavioural therapy and attention to sleep hygiene. Initial medication choice is individualized and influenced by severity of symptoms, presence of co-morbidities and adverse effects.
Prompt recognition and an active patient-centred approach which integrates biomedical and behavioural aspects, is the current recommended management strategy. Genetic and other biomarker studies should in future optimise earlier diagnosis and more appropriate management of FMS patients.


Novel Neuropeptides Integrating External and Internal Regulation of Reproduction
Robert P Millar
Centre for Neuroendocrinology, University of Pretoria
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The integration of diverse external and internal environmental inputs to regulate reproduction is crucial to the survival of species. Gonadotropin-Releasing-Hormone (GnRH) secreted by neurons in the hypothalamus is the central regulator of the reproductive hormone cascade through the stimulation of pituitary gonadotropins and downstream stimulation of the gonads. Gonadal steroid and peptide hormones feedback at the hypothalamic and pituitary levels. In spite of the central role of GnRH neurons they lack receptors to mediate the diverse inputs, including an absence of sex steroid receptors.
This conundrum was resolved with the discovery of genes with inactivating mutations in patients who failed to progress through puberty; kisspeptin and neurokinin B and their cognate receptors. The neurons expressing these peptides have receptors for sex steroid  and other regulators which mediate a wide range of metabolic, nutrient, photoperiodic and other inputs. Thus these neurons are seen as gatekeepers and whole body sensors regulating reproduction.
This talk will review this system and the development of analogs which are powerful tools for interrogating the regulation of reproductive hormones and as effective therapeutics.


The pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease captured in images
Nozipho E. Nyakale
Head of Nuclear Medicine: Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
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Differentiating idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD) from other movement disorders is a complex process and often unattainable in the early disease stages. Molecular imaging with PET and SPECT offers a wide variety of applications in approaching this disease process and aiding to differentiate the idiopathic form from other parkinsonian syndromes. Refining differentiation of these disease entities impacts targeted and relevant management.
Parkinson’s disease is associated with nigral degeneration and striatal dopamine deficiency. Demonstration of striatal dopamine terminal dysfunction, reduced lentiform nucleus glucose metabolism and changes in neural activity in the brain with PET supports the diagnosis and use of dopaminergic medications. Correlative imaging of the loss of cardiac sympathetic innervation typical of iPD is sensitively detected to further support this diagnosis.


Atorvastatin affects miR-124a expression: An alternate mechanism of statin-associated myotoxicity
A Phulukdaree1
D Moodley1,2, S Khan3, AA Chuturgoon1
1Dept. of Medical Biochemistry, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, UKZN, Durban, South Africa
2Dept. of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School 77, Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA, United States of America
3Dept. of Cardiology, Inkhosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
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It has been estimated that by the year 2020 heart disease (HD) will be the number one cause of death worldwide. Statins are the most commonly used drug to control atherosclerosis progression in HD patients. The myopathy and hepatotoxic outcomes in HD patients are attributed to the pleiotropic effects (anti-inflammatory and elevated creatine kinase) of statins. This study investigated the effect of atorvastatin on (i) the metabolic activity and (ii) microRNA (miRNA) expression in HepG2 cells. Metabolic activity was assessed using the MTT assay. The profile of 84 miRNA species was evaluated using the miRNA Pathway Finder PCR SuperArray. The predicted targets of up-regulated miRNAs were determined using Targetscan. The mRNA levels of guanidinoacetoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT), arginine glycine aminotransferase (AGAT) and spermine oxidase (SMO) were determined using quantitative PCR. Western blotting was used to assess GAMT levels and p53(ser-15) phosphorylation. The lowest measure of proliferation/metabolism in HepG2 cells was observed at 20µM atorvastatin, with 82±9.8% viability. MicroRNAs significantly up-regulated include miR-302a-3p (3.05-fold), miR-302c-3p (3.61-fold), miR-124a-3p (3.90-fold) and miR-222-3p (4.4-fold). Interestingly, miR-124a targets GAMT and SMO mRNA. A 1.8-fold decrease in GAMT, a 1.15-fold decrease in SMO, and a 1.53-fold increase in AGAT mRNA levels was observed following atorvastatin treatment. The protein level of GAMT was relatively lower than the untreated control (1.11-fold). The highest level of p53 phosphorylation was observed in atorvastatin treated cells (3.2-fold). Atorvastatin reduces metabolic activity and modulates the miRNA profile in HepG2 cells. The inhibition of GAMT (which has an integral role in creatine synthesis) by miR-124a provides a plausible mechanism for creatine depletion and elevated creatine kinase levels observed in HD patients on statins. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory potential may be attributed to the miR-124a inhibition of spermine oxidase. Taken together, several clinical observations related to pleiotropic effects of statins can be elucidated from these findings. 


The cardiovascular system: effects of systemic inflammation on erythrocytes
Resia Pretorius
Department of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University
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Non-communicable diseases have become important causes of mortality on a global scale. According to a recent report of the World Health Organization, non-communicable diseases killed 38 million people (out of 56 million deaths that occurred worldwide) during 2012; and cardiovascular diseases accounted for most non-communicable diseases deaths (17.5 million NCD deaths).  The hallmark of cardiovascular disease is (systemic) inflammation, with an accompanying upregulated pro-inflammatory profile.  Erythrocytes (RBCs) are extremely vulnerable in the presence of circulating pro-inflammatory molecules, hydroxyl radicals and oxidative stress, which are the key role players during inflammation. Notwithstanding this vulnerability, RBCs are exceptionally adaptable and react quickly to stabilize their membranes and structure in the presence of e.g. hydroxyl radical mopping agents (including treatment regimes). Clinical Haematologists have been using RBC shape in diagnostics for decades – however, due to new and more molecular-based techniques, the usefulness of morphology is under the magnifying glass.  In this talk, I will focus on using structure and function of RBCs and show that they are important health indicators. RBCs have a highly specialized and organized membrane structure, which interacts and reacts to inflammatory molecule insults, and undergo programmed cell death, like apoptosis, known as eryptosis. Eryptosis in various cardiovascular diseases will be discussed, with special reference to membrane changes, aberrant rheology and hypercoagulability. Techniques to study eryptosis in cardiovascular diseases like flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and ultrastructural studies will be rehearsed. In conclusion, I will provide a brief overview of eryptosis, revisit the biochemical process and discuss current methodologies to determine the presence of eryptosis in various inflammatory (cardiovascular) diseases and discuss how biophysical and ultrastructural changes in RBCs may provide an essential in vivo cell model system.


Growth and neurodevelopmental delay in HIV-exposed but uninfected children
Theresa Rossouw
of Medical Immunology, University of Pretoria
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The introduction of potent antiretroviral therapy (ART) during pregnancy and breastfeeding has greatly improved the health of HIV-infected mothers and reduced the number of HIV-infected children. Despite the success of ART, immune dysfunction, inflammation, and cognitive and metabolic abnormalities persist in HIV-infected individuals on ART and in HIV-exposed-but-uninfected (HEU) children, and contribute to the increased morbidity and mortality observed in these populations. Data demonstrate that maternal HIV-infection is associated with low birth weight and small-for-gestational age babies, with an association with prematurity in some, but not all, studies. The effects of in utero HIV exposure on infant growth trajectories persist beyond the newborn period with the severity of maternal HIV, as measured by viral load, inversely associated with lower weight in early infancy and beyond. In the postnatal period, infant feeding practices and breast milk composition are critical factors for optimal infant growth. Poor growth can therefore occur in both the pre- and postnatal periods, suggesting that there are two critical windows of opportunity during which interventions may prevent or correct suboptimal developmental trajectories initiated by perinatal HIV-exposure. HEU infants are further at increased risk of hypoxic brain injury and cerebral haemorrhage secondary to prematurity. Studies in resource-rich settings have also demonstrated subtle deficits in cognition, motor function, language and behavior in HEU children during pre-school years. The mechanisms underlying this reported dysfunction and dysregulation remain largely unknown and studies examining the influence of immune dysfunction and metabolic abnormalities of HIV-infected mothers on ART and/or potential ART toxicity on infant development have yielded conflicting results. Potential mechanisms currently under consideration include systemic maternal inflammation, an imbalance between T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 immunological responses, ART-induced metabolic dysfunction and decreased progesterone concentrations. High-quality research, including mechanistic studies, is needed to examine these associations in order to ensure optimal functioning of this growing population of HEU children.


The interaction of physiological and psychological homeostatic drives and the role of general control principles in the regulation of physiological systems.
Alan (Zig) St Clair Gibson
MBChB PhD UCT, Dean of the Faculty of Health, Sport and Human Performance, University of Essex
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Either central (brain) or peripheral (body physiological system) control mechanisms, or a combination of these, have been championed in the last few decades as how physiological activity in the brain and body are regulated. In this talk, we suggest that the concept of both ‘central’ or ‘peripheral’ mechanisms are both artificial constructs that have ‘straight-jacketed’ research in the field, and rather that competition between psychological and physiological homeostatic drives is central to the regulation of both. Furthermore, we suggest that governing principles, rather than distinct physical processes, underpin all physical system and exercise regulation. As part of the Integrative Governor theory we have developed, we suggest that both psychological and physiological drives and requirements are underpinned by homeostatic principles, and that regulation of the relative activity of each is by dynamic negative feedback activity, as the fundamental general operational controller. Because of this competitive, dynamic interplay, we propose that the activity in all physiological systems oscillates, that these oscillations create information, and comparison of this oscillatory information with either prior information, current activity or activity templates create efferent responses that change the activity in the different systems in a similarly dynamic manner. Changes in a particular physiological system are always the result of perturbations occurring outside of the system itself, the behavioural causative ‘history’ of this external activity will be evident in the pattern of the oscillations, and awareness of change occurs as a result of unexpected rather than planned change in physiological activity or psychological state.


Neuroblastoma cells: An appropriate model for Alzheimer’s research?
Vanessa Steenkamp
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria
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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.  This disease has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although both in vitro and in vivo models are available for such purposes, each model possesses shortcomings/deficits.  Cell lines offer a cost effective method to understand the mechanisms underlying the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and drug discovery.  The most commonly used cell line is the SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells, however, these undifferentiated cells do not possess the morphology or correct expression of neuronal markers of mature phenotypes in vivo. The ability for researchers to differentiate SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells to a more mature, neuron-like phenotype has afforded various benefits in the field of neuroscience research. In the Department of Pharmacology we are currently optimizing the differentiation of the cells. The appropriateness of this model with regards to drug development will be alluded to.


Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping
Martin Schwellnus
University of Pretoria
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One of the most common, yet under-studied, clinical presentations to sports physicians providing medical care to endurance athletes is muscle cramping – also known as Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping (EAMC). Despite the fact that EAMC is common in athletes, there is still controversy around the risk factors, causes, management and prevention of EAMC. In the past, EAMC has been mainly attributed to dehydration and electrolyte deficiencies, but more recent data indicate that EAMC is not a single diagnosis but a clinical syndrome with multiple causes. Also, more recent data show that EAMC is likely as a result of a disturbance of the neuromuscular control of the exercising muscle. In this lecture, the historical and current data on the causes of EAMC will be reviewed, novel data on risk factors will be presented, and a clinical approach to diagnosis, management and prevention of EAMC will be provided.


Imaging modalities in neuroanatomy research
Albert-Neels van Schoor1
Riaze Asvat1,  Marius C Bosman1, Edwin J de Jager1, Sabashnee Govender1, Rene Human-Baron1, Dwayne Mohr 1, 2
1 Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 2 Private consultant anaesthesiologist, Pretoria, South Africa
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Neuroanatomy is defined as the study of the anatomy and organisation of the nervous system, which is structurally categorised into the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (cranial and spinal nerves) nervous systems. Modern developments in neuroanatomy are directly correlated to the technologies used to perform research. Although histological techniques are often used to study the nervous system, there are techniques that have been developed specifically for the study of neuroanatomy. The aim of this talk is to present some of the imaging modalities – both conventional and modern – that is currently being employed in the Department of Anatomy, University of Pretoria for neuroanatomical research. The focus will be on four destinct studies in the field of neuroanatomy. The first is the use of ultrasound imaging to describe the real-time anatomy of the brachial plexus in order to highlight the importance of the inclusion of ultrasound guidance into surgical and clinical procedures. The second study involves using software of micro-CT and CT scans of the cochlea to create an accurate person-specific algorithmic description of the cochlear shape and size in a three-dimensional (3D) space. The third study explores the use of micro-focus X-ray tomography in the 3D visualisation of the ventricular system as well as the various neuroanatomical structures within its walls. This 3D-fly-through video will be valuable when integrated with standard prosections and atlas pictures in the teaching of neuroanatomy. Finally, various software programs and algorithms are combined to create a virtual representation of a skull obtained from micro-CT, virtually extract an endocasts of the cranial space; and then use algorithms to automatically detect sulci and gyri as well as remove any unwanted distortions detected by the algorithm. This automatic method provides an innovative, noninvasive, observer-independent method to investigate human endocranial structural organisation and a promising perspective for discussing long-standing questions in palaeoneurology. The results and current or future applications of these studies are discussed in more detail.


A Neuroscience Perspective on Coaching
Andre Vermeulen
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A coach’s job is to assist people achieve their performance goals. Cognitive science identifies 8 drivers that optimize brain performance and 7 brain-based perspectives on how people prefer to utilize their brain for optimum performance.  Our neurological design determines who we are, how we process information, learn, think and perform.  Every person has to understand this about themselves in order to be accurately aware of their unique strengths, talents and weaknesses and how they can optimize their performance. During this presentation the presenter will address how a coach can use the above framework to help people optimize their performance.


Exercise is key to healthy aging
Paola Wood
Acting Head of the Division of Biokinetics and Sport Science, University of Pretoria
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The elderly population is increasing both in size and in proportion of the total population. The costs to both governments and the general population of the elderly being in poor health are also growing proportionately. Regular participation in physical activity can minimize the physiological alterations that occur during aging and consequently decrease the incidence of the associated chronic diseases. The understanding of the effects of regular exercise on the mobility, independence and balance of the elderly are vital in ensuring successful aging and preventing age-related disorders.