Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] Infections can affect your IQ

From the 21 May 2015 Aarhaus news release

New research shows that infections can impair your cognitive ability measured on an IQ scale. The study is the largest of its kind to date, and it shows a clear correlation between infection levels and impaired cognition.

“Infections can affect the brain directly, but also through peripheral inflammation, which affects the brain and our mental capacity. Infections have previously been associated with both depression and schizophrenia, and it has also been proven to affect the cognitive ability of patients suffering from dementia. This is the first major study to suggest that infections can also affect the brain and the cognitive ability in healthy individuals.”

“We can see that the brain is affected by all types of infections. Therefore, it is important that more research is conducted into the mechanisms which lie behind the connection between a person’s immune system and mental health,” says Michael Eriksen Benrós.

He hopes that learning more about this connection will help to prevent the impairment of people’s mental health and improve future treatment.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence

From the 11 April Eureka News Alert

What is usually seen as pathology may aid survival of the species

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study by scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, and colleagues found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in theGlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, Sackler Institute of Columbia University, NIH/National Institute of Mental Health, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, Psychiatric Institute subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

“While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be,” said Dr. Coplan. “In essence, worry may make people ‘take no chances,’ and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species.”

In this study of anxiety and intelligence, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were compared with healthy volunteers to assess the relationship among intelligence quotient (IQ), worry, and subcortical white matter metabolism of choline. In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD, high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. However, in the former, the correlation was positive and in the latter, the correlation was negative. Eighteen healthy volunteers (eight males and 10 females) and 26 patients with GAD (12 males and 14 females) served as subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher intelligence and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life.

The results of their study, “The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism,” was published in a recent edition of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, and can be read at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3269637/pdf/fnevo-03-00008.pdf.

The study was selected and evaluated by a member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), placing it in their library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Human Brains Unlikely To Evolve Into A “supermind” As Price To Pay Would Be Too High

From the 8 December 2011 Medical News Today article

Human minds have hit an evolutionary “sweet spot” and – unlike computers cannot continually get smarter without trade-offs elsewhere, according to research by the University of Warwick.

Researchers asked the question why we are not more intelligent than we are given the adaptive evolutionary process.

Their conclusions show that you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to mental performance.

The evidence suggests that for every gain in cognitive functions, for example better memory, increased attention or improved intelligence, there is a price to pay elsewhere – meaning a highly-evolved “supermind” is the stuff of science fiction….

For instance, among individuals with enhanced cognitive abilities such as savants, people with photographic memories, and even genetically segregated populations of individuals with above average IQ, these individuals often suffer from related disorders, such as autism, debilitating synaesthesia and neural disorders linked with enhanced brain growth.

Similarly, drugs like Ritalan only help people with lower attention spans whereas people who don’t have trouble focusing can actually perform worse when they take attention-enhancing drugs.

Dr Hills said: “These kinds of studies suggest there is an upper limit to how much people can or should improve their mental functions like attention, memory or intelligence….

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Processed, Fatty Foods May Dumb Down Your Kids: Study

Processed, Fatty Foods May Dumb Down Your Kids: Study
But healthful diet for toddlers can boost intelligence later on, researchers say

HealthDay news image

From a February 8, 2011 Health Day news item

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) — Feeding children lots of fatty, sugary and processed foods may lower their IQ, while a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients appears to boost it, British researchers say.

This is particularly true during the first three years of life when the brain is developing rapidly, the study authors explained. They speculate that good nutrition may promote brain growth and cognitive development.

“We have found some evidence to suggest that a diet associated with increasing consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar and processed foods in early childhood is associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood,” said lead researcher Kate Northstone, a research fellow in the department of social medicine at the University of Bristol.

A more health-conscious diet was associated with small increases in IQ, she said.

Children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods from an early age, she said. “We know this is important for physical growth and development, but it may also be important for mental ability,” she added.

For the study, published online Feb. 7 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Northstone’s team collected data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children on 3,966 children born in 1991 and 1992.

The children’s parents had answered questions about their kids’ diets at age 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years. The children’s IQs were measured using the standard Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children when they were 8.5 years old.

The researchers identified three basic diets: “processed,” crammed with fats, sugar and convenience foods; a “traditional” diet high in meats and vegetables; and a “health conscious” diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, salads, fish, rice and pasta.

Children who ate a diet high in processed foods at age 3 had a lower IQ at 8.5 years than kids with a healthy diet. For every one point increase in processed foods consumption, they lost 1.67 points in IQ. Conversely, every one point increase in healthy eating translated into a 1.2 point increase in IQ, the researchers found.

The key seemed to be the diet at age 3, since diet at 4 and 7 seemed to have no effect on IQ, the research team noted. However, to truly understand the effect of diet on children’s intelligence, further studies are needed, they said.

Commenting on the study, Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist in Fairfield, Conn., said that “most of us do not realize that the foods we eat have direct consequences on brain growth, function and performance.”

When a child’s diet consists primarily of high-calorie foods that are low in the nutrients they need (such as healthy fats, vitamins and minerals), their brains don’t get the compounds necessary to develop and function properly, Heller said. “This can have a series of deleterious effects, including decreased cognitive ability, poor behavior and social skills,” she said.

“Fast and junk food seem like an easy and affordable option for busy parents, but defaulting to high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods is putting their children’s health and future at risk,” Heller said.

Cooking easy, healthy meals for the family will give “children’s brains a boost in essential nutrients needed for healthy development and improved cognitive skills,” she added.

SOURCES: Kate Northstone, Ph.D., research fellow, department of social medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, England; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, Fairfield, Conn.; Feb. 7, 2011, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health**

 

Go to the Tasty, Healthy Family Meals posting for great recipes. Or go directly to the online  meals cookbook.

** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here


 


February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The genius of bacteria

The genius of bacteria

Tel Aviv University develops an IQ test to assess and outsmart bacteria’s ‘social intelligence’

This is a “smart community ” of Paenibacillus vortex bacteria.

 

From the January 24, 2011 Eureka news release

Q scores are used to assess the intelligence of human beings. Now Tel Aviv University has developed a “Social-IQ score” for bacteria ― and it may lead to new antibiotics and powerful bacteria-based “green” pesticides for the agricultural industry.

An international team led by Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and his research student Alexandra Sirota-Madi says that their results deepen science’s knowledge of the social capabilities of bacteria, one of the most prolific and important organisms on earth. “Bacteria are our worst enemies but they can also be our best friends. To better exploit their capabilities and to outsmart pathogenic bacteria, we must realize their social intelligence,” says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

The international team was first to sequence the genome of pattern-forming bacteria, the Paenibacillus vortex (Vortex) discovered two decades ago by Prof. Ben-Jacob and his collaborators. While sequencing the genome, the team developed the first “Bacteria Social-IQ Score” and found that Vortex and two other Paenibacillus strains have the world’s highest Social-IQ scores among all 500 sequenced bacteria. The research was recently published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Highly evolved communities

The impact of the team’s research is three-fold. First, it shows just how “smart” bacteria can really be –– a new paradigm that has just begun to be recognised by the science community today. Second, it demonstrates bacteria’s high level of social intelligence –– how bacteria work together to communicate and grow. And finally, the work points out some potentially significant applications in medicine and agriculture.

The researchers looked at genes which allow the bacteria to communicate and process information about their environment, making decisions and synthesizing agents for defensive and offensive purposes. This research shows that bacteria are not simple solitary organisms, or “low level” entities, as earlier believed ― they are highly social and evolved creatures. They consistently foil the medical community as they constantly develop strategies against the latest antibiotics. In the West, bacteria are one of the top three killers in hospitals today.

The recent study shows that everyday pathogenic bacteria are not so smart: their S-IQ score is just at the average level. But the social intelligence of the Vortex bacteria is at the “genius range”: if compared to human IQ scores it is about 60 points higher than the average IQ at 100. Armed with this kind of information on the social intelligence of bacteria, researchers will be better able to outsmart them, says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

This information can also be directly applied in “green” agriculture or biological control, where bacteria’s advanced offense strategies and toxic agents can be used to fight harmful bacteria, fungi and even higher organisms.

Tiny biotechnology factories

Bacteria are often found in soil, and live in symbiotic harmony with a plant’s roots. They help the roots access nutrients, and in exchange the bacteria eat sugar from the roots.

For that reason, bacteria are now applied in agriculture to increase the productivity of plants and make them stronger against pests and disease. They can be used instead of fertilizer, and also against insects and fungi themselves. Knowing the Social-IQ score could help developers determine which bacteria are the most efficient.

“Thanks to the special capabilities of our bacteria strain, it can be used by researchers globally to further investigate the social intelligence of bacteria,” says co-author Sirota-Madi. “When we can determine how smart they really are, we can use them as biotechnology factories and apply them optimally in agriculture.”

 

 

 

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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