Understanding the brain and its diseases: A List of Cochrane Reviews

Back to feature: The Complex Nature of the Brain

The brain has many functions that make it the most complex and powerful organ in the human body. Over the next decade, researchers from around the world will focus on understanding the brain and developing treatments for various diseases and conditions that are affiliated with it. This includes everything from stuttering and sleep disorders to Alzheimer's, paralysis, and traumatic brain injury.

We can expect innovative approaches and breakthroughs that will revolutionize the way we look at these diseases and how we maintain healthy brains.

It is important for us to be able to access information that will keep us abreast of the advances in this field of research. An excellent source for that information is the The Cochrane Library, which contains more than 5,300 reviews that are the result of a systematic synthesis of all evidence related to a specific health research question. Below are a few examples of Cochrane reviews concerning developments in brain research:

  1. Treadmill training for patients with Parkinson

    People with Parkinson's disease are likely to experience tremors and instability in movement. A Cochrane Review suggests that patients with this disabling, degenerative disorder can improve gait impairments through treadmill training. Improved areas may include gait speed and stride length. However, it is not known how long gait improvements after treadmill training will last.

  2. Melatonin for jet lag prevention and treatment

    Jet lag is loss of sleep that is caused when someone happens to travel across different time zones. Symptoms are daytime fatigue and sleep disturbance, loss of mental efficiency, weakness and irritability. A Cochrane Review suggests that the hormone melatonin, which is released during darkness, plays a key role in regulating the body's circadian rhythms and has been used to treat disturbed sleep patterns. Melatonin is remarkably effective in preventing or reducing jet lag, and occasional short-term use by adults appears to be safe.

  3. Helmets for prevention of cyclist head injury

    A Cochrane Review suggests that helmet use reduces the risk of head injury by 85%, brain injury by 88% and severe brain injury by at least 75%. The protective effect of helmets for facial injury is 65% for the upper and mid facial regions. No protection is provided for the lower face and jaw. Helmets reduce head and facial injuries for bicyclists who are involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.

  4. Psychological therapies for PTSD in children and adolescents

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event that causes a person to re-experience the trauma, or avoid any stimuli associated with it. A Cochrane Review demonstrates the effectiveness of psychological therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), for the treatment of PTSD in children and adolescents. CBT challenges the distorted, negative thinking patterns associated with the trauma in order to help people develop more adaptive cognitions and behaviours.

  5. Music therapy for acquired brain injury

    Acquired brain injury (ABI) can result in impairments of motor function, language, cognition, sensory processing as well as emotional disturbances. Music therapy has been used in rehabilitation settings to stimulate these brain functions. A Cochrane Review suggests that rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) may be beneficial for improving gait speed, pace, stride length and stride symmetry among stroke patients. Several small non-controlled trials have shown the impressive results of RAS for gait improvement.

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