Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Bacterial life on and in humans orchestrates health and disease

Bacterial life on and in humans orchestrates health and diseas From the December 15, 2010 Eureka news alert

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | Leave a comment

Radiation Oncology Patient Web Site earns Web Health Award

From the December 15, 2010 Eureka news alert

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has received a 2010 Web Health Award for its patient-geared website, www.rtanswers.org.

The Web Health Awards is a national competition that recognizes high-quality electronic health information. Over 500 entries were submitted for the 2010 competition from a variety of health care professionals nationwide. The winners were selected by a panel of national electronic health information experts. [A complete listing of the winners may be found here ]

This year, ASTRO received a bronze award for RT Answers, a site designed specifically for cancer patients and their families, friends and caregivers. RT Answers began in 2004 as a way to explain to cancer patients and their families and friends how radiation therapy is used to treat cancer safely and effectively. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be frightening and confusing, so physicians and other members of the radiation therapy treatment team created RT Answers as a one-stop site where patients can receive radiation therapy information.

Here are some highlights from the RT Answers Web site

Among other winners in the medical/health care fields for Summer 2010

(Flahiff’s note: I was disappointed in a few awardee sites [not listed below] some had pages with no content, some did not have an about page; keep in mind there is an entry fee of $58.00 for submissions)

  • The Recovery Month (US Health and Human Services)”aims to promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment, laud the contributions of treatment providers, and promote the message that recovery from alcohol and drug disorders in all its forms is possible.”
    Includes Recovery Resources for the public (they are also on Facebook, YouTube,and Twitter)
  • Home Safety Council has information on how to maintain a safe home in formats as fact sheets, guides, quizzes, videos, and interactive media
  • Iowa Health System has links to health information (as an online health library and health videos) and a newsroom (with health care reform summaries)
  • National Diabetes Education Program includes publications, resources, and fact sheets. One may do a tailored search with drop down menus (age, ethnicity, language, and diabetes status)

 

 

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where unconscious memories form

From the December 15, 2010 Eureka news release

A small area deep in the brain called the perirhinal cortex is critical for forming unconscious conceptual memories, researchers at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain have found.

The perirhinal cortex was thought to be involved, like the neighboring hippocampus, in “declarative” or conscious memories, but the new results show that the picture is more complex, said lead author Wei-chun Wang, a graduate student at UC Davis.

The results were published Dec. 9 in the journal Neuron.
[An abstract of the article may be found here . For suggestions on how to obtain this article for free or low cost, click here]

We’re all familiar with memories that rise from the unconscious mind. Imagine looking at a beach scene, said Wang. A little later, someone mentions surfing, and the beach scene pops back into your head.

Declarative memories, in contrast, are those where we recall being on that beach and watching that surf competition: “I remember being there.”

Damage to a structure called the hippocampus affects such declarative “I remember” memories, but not conceptual memories, Wang said. Neuroscientists had previously thought the same was true for the perirhinal cortex, which is located immediately next to the hippocampus.

Wang and colleagues carried out memory tests on people diagnosed with amnesia, who had known damage to the perirhinal cortex or other brain areas. They also carried out functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of healthy volunteers while they performed memory tests.

In a typical test, they gave the subjects a long list of words, such as chair, table or spoon, and asked them to think about how pleasant they were.

Later, they asked the subjects to think up words in different categories, such as “furniture.”

Amnesiacs with damage to the perirhinal cortex performed poorly on the tests, while the same brain area lit up in fMRI scans of the healthy control subjects.

The study helps us understand how memories are assembled in the brain and how different types of brain damage might impair memory, Wang said. For example, Alzheimer’s disease often attacks the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex before other brain areas.

 

 

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

Allô allô! Mom’s voice plays special role in activating newborn’s brain

Researchers applied electrodes to babies’ heads to analyze their brain activity.
Allô allô! Mom’s voice plays special role in activating newborn’s brain
Recordings within 24 hours of birth reveal brain parts that only react to her voice

From the December 15, 2010 Eureka news release

A mother’s voice will preferentially activate the parts of the brain responsible for language learning, say researchers from the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre. The research team made the discovery after performing electrical recordings on the infants within the 24 hours following their birth. The brain signals also revealed that while the infants did react to other women’s voices, these sounds only activated the voice recognition parts of the brains. “This is exciting research that proves for the first time that the newborn’s brain responds strongly to the mother’s voice and shows, scientifically speaking, that the mother’s voice is special to babies,” said lead researcher Dr. Maryse Lassonde of the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre.

The research was published in Cerebral Cortex and received funding from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Canada Research Chairs programme.The full text of the article may be found here.

 

 

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teen marijuana use increases, especially among eighth-graders

Flahiff’s note: The item below states “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame [for the increase in teen marijuana use].
A  December 14 2010 Newshour segment included this concern. Interviewee Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy made several related comments. He stressed marijuana is not medicine, and drugs are not only criminal justice concerns but also education and public safety concerns.

Here is  the full text of the December 14 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) press release

Teen marijuana use increases, especially among eighth-graders
NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Survey shows increases in Ecstasy use and continued high levels of prescription drug abuse
WASHINGTON — Fueled by increases in marijuana use, the rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from last year’s 14.5 percent, with daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed, according to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF).

For 12th-graders, declines in cigarette use accompanied by recent increases in marijuana use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking by some measures. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes.

The survey, released today at a news conference at the National Press Club, also shows significant increases in use of Ecstasy. In addition, nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. MTF is an annual series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Most measures of marijuana use increased among eighth-graders, and daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades. The 2010 use rates were 6.1 percent of high school seniors, 3.3 percent of 10th -graders, and 1.2 percent of eighth-graders compared to 2009 rates of 5.2 percent, 2.8 percent, and 1.0 percent, respectively.

“These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, places our young people at particular risk,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.”

“The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs. The Obama administration is aggressively addressing the threat of drug use and its consequences through a balanced and comprehensive drug control strategy, but we need parents and other adults who influence children as full partners in teaching young people about the risks and harms associated with drug use, including marijuana.”

The MTF survey also showed a significant increase in the reported use of MDMA, or Ecstasy, with 2.4 percent of eighth-graders citing past-year use, compared to 1.3 percent in 2009. Similarly, past-year MDMA use among 10th-graders increased from 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent in 2010.

Also of concern is that the downward trend in cigarette smoking has stalled in all three grades after several years of marked improvement on most measures. Greater marketing of other forms of tobacco prompted the 2010 survey to add measures for 12th-graders’ use of small cigars (23.1 percent) and of tobacco with a smoking pipe known as a hookah (17.1 percent).

Prescription drug abuse remains a major problem. Although Vicodin abuse decreased in 12th graders this year to 8 percent, down from around 9.7 percent the past four years, other indicators confirm that nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. For example, the use of OxyContin, another prescription opiate, stayed about the same for 12th-graders at 5.1 percent in 2010. And six of the top 10 illicit drugs abused by 12th-graders in the year prior to the survey were prescribed or purchased over the counter. The survey again found that teens generally get these prescription drugs from friends and family, whether given, bought, or stolen.

However, the survey says binge drinking continued its downward trend. Among high school seniors, 23.2 percent report having five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks, down from 25.2 percent in 2009 and from the peak of 31.5 percent in 1998. In addition, 2010 findings showed a drop in high school seniors’ past-year consumption of flavored alcoholic beverages, to 47.9 percent in 2010 from 53.4 percent in 2009. Past-year use of flavored alcohol by eighth- graders was at 21.9 percent, down from 27.9 percent in 2005.

The MTF survey also measures teen attitudes about drugs, including perceived harmfulness, perceived availability, and disapproval, all of which can predict future abuse. Related to its increased use, the perception that regular marijuana smoking is harmful decreased for 10th-graders (down from 59.5 percent in 2009 to 57.2 percent in 2010) and 12th-graders (from 52.4 percent in 2009 to 46.8 percent in 2010). Moreover, disapproval of smoking marijuana decreased significantly among eighth-graders.

“We should examine the extent to which the debate over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization for adults is affecting teens’ perceptions of risk,” said Dr. Volkow. “We must also find better ways to communicate to teens that marijuana use can harm their short-term performance as well as their long-term potential.”

Overall, 46,482 students from 396 public and private schools participated in this year’s survey. Since 1975, the MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th-graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. The survey has been conducted since its inception by a team of investigators at the University of Michigan, led by NIDA grantee Dr. Lloyd Johnston. Additional information on the MTF Survey, as well as comments from Dr. Volkow can be found at http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/MTF.html.

MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The MTF Web site is: http://monitoringthefuture.org. Follow Monitoring the Future 2010 news on Twitter at @NIDANews, or join the conversation by using: #MTF2010. Additional information on MTF can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/news; or http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the primary source of statistical information on substance use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. More information is available at http://www.drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, is a school-based survey that collects data from students in grades 9-12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors, including substance abuse. More information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s new DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or fax or email requests to 240-645-0227 ordrugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at http://drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s new media guide can be found at http://drugabuse.gov/mediaguide.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visitwww.nih.gov.

Related resources

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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