Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Whether We Like Someone Affects How Our Brain Processes Movement

 

From the 5 October 2012 article at Science Daily

Hate the Lakers? Do the Celtics make you want to hurl? Whether you like someone can affect how your brain processes their actions, according to new research from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Most of the time, watching someone else move causes a “mirroring” effect — that is, the parts of our brains responsible for motor skills are activated by watching someone else in action.

But a study by USC researchers appearing October 5 in PLOS ONEshows that whether you like the person you’re watching can actually have an effect on brain activity related to motor actions and lead to “differential processing” — for example, thinking the person you dislike is moving more slowly than they actually are…

Past research has shown that race or physical similarity can influence brain processes, and we tend to have more empathy for people who look more like us.

In this study, the researchers controlled for race, age and gender, but they introduced a backstory that primed participants to dislike some of the people they were observing: Half were presented as neo-Nazis, and half were presented as likable and open-minded. All study participants recruited for the study were Jewish males.

The researchers found that when people viewed someone they disliked, a part of their brain that was otherwise activated in “mirroring” — the right ventral premotor cortex — had a different pattern of activity for the disliked individuals as compared to the liked individuals…

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“These findings lend important support for the notion that social factors influence our perceptual processing.”

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleeping Brain Behaves as If It’s Remembering Something

 

English: Entorhinal cortex (red) was thinnest ...

English: Entorhinal cortex (red) was thinnest in youth with Alzheimer’s-related ApoE4 gene variant. View of left entorhinal cortex from beneath the brain, with front of brain at top. Artist’s rendering. Source: Philip Shaw, M.D., NIMH Child Psychiatry Branch http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2007/cortex-area-thinner-in-youth-with-alzheimers-related-gene.shtml (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 7 October 2012 article at Science Daily

 

UCLA researchers have for the first time measured the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease during sleep. They discovered that this part of the brain behaves as if it’s remembering something, even under anesthesia, a finding that counters conventional theories about memory consolidation during sleep.

Mehta and his team looked at three connected brain regions in mice — the new brain or the neocortex, the old brain or the hippocampus, and the entorhinal cortex, an intermediate brain that connects the new and the old brains. While previous studies have suggested that the dialogue between the old and the new brain during sleep was critical for memory formation, researchers had not investigated the contribution of the entorhinal cortex to this conversation, which turned out to be a game changer, Mehta said. His team found that the entorhinal cortex showed what is called persistent activity, which is thought to mediate working memory during waking life, for example when people pay close attention to remember things temporarily, such as recalling a phone number or following directions.

“The big surprise here is that this kind of persistent activity is happening during sleep, pretty much all the time.” Mehta said. “These results are entirely novel and surprising. In fact, this working memory-like persistent activity occurred in the entorhinal cortex even under anesthesia.”

The study appears Oct. 7, 2012 in the early online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The findings are important, Mehta said, because humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping and a lack of sleep results in adverse effects on health, including learning and memory problems.

It had been shown previously that the neocortex and the hippocampus “talk” to each other during sleep, and it is believed that this conversation plays a critical role in establishing memories, or memory consolidation. However, no one was able to interpret the conversation…..

 

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experts Challenge Super Food Claims: Healthy-Giving Properties of Broccoli, Blueberries, May Not Make It Past the Gut

 

broccoli

broccoli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a pharmacology lab technician about 30 years ago.
He was discouraged that drug research did not include studies on how drugs were broken down by digestion, the resultant by-products, and how the by-products worked to “cure” diseases or ameliorate conditions.  I suspect little has changed since then in drug research.

 

 

 

From the 5 October 2012 article at Science Daily

 

They have been the mainstay of the health industry for the best part of a decade, but now researchers at London’s Kingston University are using an approach that allows them to delve deeper into the effectiveness of health-promoting ‘super foods’ and their elixir-giving ilk. While there’s no doubt foods such as broccoli, blueberries and whole grains contain polyphenols – compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – the academic experts contend that little of these health-giving properties actually make it past the gut.

“Polyphenols may well work when cells are exposed to them directly, such as under laboratory conditions, but what needs to be established is how effective they are when consumed as part of a food. If they don’t actually get through the gut membrane and into the rest of the body, then they’re not a super food,” Dr Lucy Jones, Deputy Dean of the University’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, said.

Dr Jones and her colleague Dr Elizabeth Opara have taken a model developed in the early 1980s by US cancer research institute Sloane Kettering and adapted it to see if and how medicinal Chinese herbs, known to limit the growth of cancer cells, are absorbed in the body. Known as the Caco-2, the model mimics the action of the small intestine, the principal place where nutrients are taken up. The Kingston researchers have used it to assess what does and doesn’t make it through the gut…

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nurses’ Assessment of Hospital Quality Often On the Button

 

From the 8 October 2012 article at Science Daily

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing affirms a straightforward premise: Nurses are accurate barometers of hospital quality.

Perceptions from nurses — the healthcare providers most familiar with the patient experience — about hospital quality of care closely matches the quality indicated by patient outcomes and other long-standing measurements.

“For a complete picture of hospital performance, data from nurses is essential,” said lead author Matthew D. McHugh, a public health policy expert at Penn Nursing. “Their assessments of quality are built on more than an isolated encounter or single process — they are developed over time through a series of interactions and direct observations of care.”

Nurse-reported quality accurately correlated with outcome measures including death and life-threatening post-surgical complications, and patients’ reports of the care experience, wrote Dr. McHugh…

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bitter Taste Receptors Regulate Upper Respiratory Defense System

 

The time-course of an immune response begins w...

The time-course of an immune response begins with the initial pathogen encounter, (or initial vaccination) and leads to the formation and maintenance of active immunological memory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

New to me! Never would have guessed that taste would be related to immune response.
It does make sense, how else can one react to a foreign substance if one cannot sense it?

 

 

 

From the 8 October 2012 article at Science Daily

 

A new study from a team of researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Monell Chemical Senses Center, and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, reveals that a person’s ability to taste certain bitter flavors is directly related to their ability to fight off upper respiratory tract infections, specifically chronic sinus infections. The new research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation….

So what exactly does drinking a cup of bitter coffee have to do with chronic sinus infections, which account for approximately 18-22 million physician visits in the U.S. each year? Recent investigations have shown that these taste receptors (T2Rs) are also found in both upper and lower human respiratory tissue, likely signaling a connection between activation of bitter tastes and the need to launch an immune response in these areas when they are exposed to potentially harmful bacteria and viruses…

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Through the cultures, the research team demonstrated that super-tasters detect very small concentrations of the offending molecules, while non-tasters and the middle-ground individuals require 100 times more of the molecule for detection. The research team also examined the patients that the original sinus tissue samples were collected from. They found that none of the super tasters were infected with the specific type of bacteria that are detected by the T2R38 receptor, known as a gram-negative bacteria.

“Based on these findings, we believe that other bitter taste receptors in the airway perform the same “guard duty” function for early detection of attack by different types of bacteria, and we hope to translate these findings into personalized diagnostics for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis,” Cohen says.

The research team is also using the results of the current study to develop a simple “taste-test” protocol to be conducted during clinic visits. “We’re optimistic that a test of this nature will help us predict who is at risk to develop biofilms based on their ability to taste various bitter compounds. Additionally, we are looking at therapeutic outcomes, both surgical and medical, based on the taster/non-taster genetic status to determine whether knowing this status will stratify patients to either surgical or medical interventions.”

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Busting Common Myths about the Flu Vaccine

From the 8 October 2012 article at Nationwide’s Children

With cold and flu season upon us, many companies have geared up for what is predicted to be a busy flu season producing 150 million doses of the influenza vaccine, up 17 million from last year.

“This is a pretty busy time around here,” said Dennis Cunningham, MD  a physician in Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Our emergency department, urgent care centers and our inpatient numbers always go up because of the flu, although many of those patients could avoid getting sick by practicing just a few simple precautions.”

Dr. Cunningham, also a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, said that part of the problem is many people buy into the long-held myths about the flu vaccine and miss opportunities to avoid getting sick. He says following about some of the most common myths:

Myth: You can actually catch the flu from the flu vaccine.
“This is probably the most common myth out there, but it’s simply not true,” said Dr. Cunningham. “The vaccine can give you some mild symptoms, you may feel a bit achy and your arm may be a little tender where you first get the shot. But that’s actually a good thing and shows that the vaccine is working. It tells us your body is responding appropriately to the vaccine.”

Dr. Cunningham said that nobody should confuse a few slight symptoms with the actual flu. The vaccine may leave you feeling a bit warm or achy for a day or two, but with true influenza, someone is sick and in bed for a week with high fever.

It is especially important for children to get the flu shot, or flu mist, which works just as well. Because children are around so many people – from peers to teachers, siblings to adults and grandparents – children are the biggest carriers of the flu  and giving them the vaccine can protect a wide range of people.

Myth: You should wait until it is cold outside to get your flu vaccine.
“Some people are worried that if you get the vaccine too soon, it will wear off by the time winter gets here,” said Dr. Cunningham. “The truth is vaccinating people even in August will protect them throughout the entire flu season. This also includes the elderly who typically have been the group people are most worried about.”

Myth: The flu is only spread by sneezing.  
“Germs are pretty easy to pass around and flu is really contagious,” said Dr. Cunningham. “It’s very easy for one child to give it to another child and the next thing you know, they bring it home.”

Because of that, experts say it is important to wash and sanitize your hands often during flu season, and urge children to do the same. The easiest way is to use hand gels, but make sure they contain at least 65 to 95 percent alcohol. If soap and water are nearby, that is even better for protecting against germs. Wash often and lather up. Make sure to completely rinse your hands in order to get the soap and germs off.

Myth: Flu vaccines do not protect you from current strains.  
From the H1N1 scare in 2009 to swine flu and the bird flu, each year it seems there is a new strain making headlines. But researchers track the most recent, most dangerous strains, and work to stay one step ahead of it.

“The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pick the strains they think are most likely to circulate in the coming months so that people are protected against everything that may go around,” said Dr. Cunningham. “Every year there are two A strains and one B strain of influenza included in the vaccine.”

The vaccine may leave you feeling a bit warm or achy for a day or two, but with true influenza, someone is sick and in bed for a week with high fever.

Watch Dr. Dennis Cunningham, infectious disease specialist, explain the truth about some common myths about the flu vaccine.

  • Onset of Flu Season Raises Concerns About Human-To-Pet Transmission(ScienceDaily)

    This concept, called “reverse zoonosis,” is still poorly understood but has raised concern among some scientists and veterinarians, who want to raise awareness and prevent further flu transmission to pets. About 80-100 million households in the United States have a cat or dog.

             This concept, called “reverse zoonosis,” is still poorly understood but has raised concern among some scientists and veterinarians, who want to raise awareness and prevent further flu transmission to pets. About 80-100 million households in the United States have a cat or dog

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Study Questions Drug Expiration Policy

 

From the 8 October 2012 article at MedPage Today

By Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Published: October 08, 2012

Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Prescription drugs retained their potency for as long as 40 years after expiration date, an analysis of 14 different compounds showed.

Overall 12 (86%) of the compounds tested at concentrations at least 90% of the labeled amount. Three compounds had concentrations that exceeded labeled amounts, and in two cases laboratory tests showed the compounds had less than 90% of the labeled concentration.

The findings add to existing evidence that prescription drugs retain their potency long after the expiration date, according to a research letter published online in Archives of Internal Medicine.

“The most important implication of our study involves the potential cost savings resulting from lengthier product expiration dating,” Lee Cantrell, PharmD, of the California Poison Control System in San Diego, and co-authors wrote. “Each dollar spent on SLEP [the Shelf-Life Extension Program] to demonstrate longer-than-labeled drug stability results in $13 to $94 saved on reacquisition costs…

The study involved eight medications comprising 15 different active ingredients, all in original, unopened containers. The medications were methaqualone, codeine, meprobamate, amphetamine, pentobarbital, secobarbital, and hydrocodone.

In addition to the primary ingredient, one or more of the eight medications included butalbital, aspirin, phenacetin, caffeine, phenobarbital, homatropine, chlorpheniramine, acetaminophen, and caffeine.

Ultimately, the authors evaluated medications representing 14 drug compounds. For each of the eight medications, the authors dissolved the contents of tablets/capsules, sonicated in methanol, reconstituted in analysis buffer, and analyzed with liquid chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Homatropine was the only drug not included in testing.

Of the 14 compounds analyzed, 12 retained the generally recognized minimum acceptable potency of 90% of labeled amount. The only two that did not meet the 90% minimum standard were aspirin (200 mg labeled, 2.28 mg by analysis; 226.8 mg labeled, 1.53 by analysis) and amphetamine (5.0 mg labeled, 2.2 mg by analysis; 15.0 mg labeled, 8.1 mg by analysis).

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Self-Tracking May Become Key Element of Personalized Medicine

 

Allan Bailey

Allan Bailey brought his type 2 diabetes under control for the first time by using a continuous glucose monitor.

 

From the 5 October 2012 article at UCSF News Center

A steady stream of new apps and devices that can be synced to ever-more sophisticated mobile phones is flowing into consumers’ hands, and this technology is revolutionizing the practice of self-tracking, in which individuals measure and collect personal data to improve their heath.

Self-trackers are using these tools to monitor sleep, food intake, exercise, blood sugar and other physiological states and behaviors. In some cases, they are using the data to identify what triggers or worsens flare-ups of chronic health disorders on their own, or with the help of an online community. In others, patients are even working together with physicians and scientists to conduct experiments, pooling their data for analysis that may shed light on the cause or best treatment for their disease.

This phenomenon was explored at a Sept. 28 symposium at Stanford University, where attendees and presenters — including two UCSF physicians — asserted not only that self-tracking can help patients to improve their lives, but also that self-tracking has the potential to change medical practice and the relationship between patients and their health care providers. The event was part of Medicine X 2012, a three-day conference on social media and information technology’s potential impact on medicine..

Already 60 percent of U.S. adults are tracking their weight, diet or exercise routine; one-third of adults are tracking some other indicator or symptom, such as blood sugar, blood pressure, headaches or sleep patterns; and one-third of caregivers are monitoring health indicators for loved ones, Fox said…

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Self-tracking may not be for everyone, Abramson said, but it may be especially helpful for those who are diagnosed with medical problems for which conventional treatment typically offers little benefit; for those with symptoms and syndromes that are not adequately diagnosed through conventional medicine; for those who want to change their behavior; for those who want to identify environmental, dietary, contextual or social contributors to their symptoms; or for those who simply want to be more involved in their own health care.

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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