Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression 

From the 17 June 2015 MIT news release

MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression.

The findings, described in the June 18 issue of Nature, offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences. They also suggest new ways to treat depression by manipulating the brain cells where memories are stored. The researchers believe this kind of targeted approach could have fewer side effects than most existing antidepressant drugs, which bathe the entire brain.

“Once you identify specific sites in the memory circuit which are not functioning well, or whose boosting will bring a beneficial consequence, there is a possibility of inventing new medical technology where the improvement will be targeted to the specific part of the circuit, rather than administering a drug and letting that drug function everywhere in the brain,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.

Memory control

In 2012, Tonegawa, former MIT postdoc Xu Liu, Ramirez, and colleagues first reported that they could label and reactivate clusters of brain cells that store specific memories, which they called engrams. More recently, they showed that they could plant false memories, and that they couldswitch the emotional associations of a particular memory from positive to negative, and vice versa.

In their new study, the researchers sought to discover if their ability to reactivate existing memories could be exploited to treat depression.

To do this, the researchers first exposed mice to a pleasurable experience. In this case, all of the mice were male and the pleasurable experience consisted of spending time with female mice. During this time, cells in the hippocampus that encode the memory engram were labeled with a light-sensitive protein that activates the neuron in response to blue light.

After the positive memory was formed, the researchers induced depression-like symptoms in the mice by exposing them to chronic stress. These mice show symptoms that mimic those of human sufferers of depression, such as giving up easily when faced with a difficult situation and failing to take pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.

However, when the mice were placed in situations designed to test for those symptoms, the researchers found that they could dramatically improve the symptoms by reactivating the neurons that stored the memory of a past enjoyable experience. Those mice began to behave just like mice that had never been depressed — but only for as long as the pleasant memory stayed activated.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] How negative stereotyping affects older people

From the 2 February 2015 University of Kent press release

Analysis of research on the effect of negative stereotypes on older people’s abilities has concluded these stereotypes are a major problem for the demographic.

Interview

Picture by Alan Cleaver. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

A research team at the University’s School of Psychology carried out a review and meta-analysis of Aged-Based Stereotype Threat (ABST).

They statistically analysed international evidence from 37 research studies, both published and unpublished. They concluded that older adults’ memory and cognitive performance is negatively affected in situations that signal or remind them of negative age stereotypes. These effects affect both men and women.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research council  (ESRC), was carried out by Ruth Lamont, working with Dr Hannah Swift and Professor Dominic Abrams. It further found that older people’s cognitive performance suffers more when the threat is induced by stereotypes rather than by facts.

 

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Older brains slow due to greater experience, rather than cognitive decline

From the 21 January 2014 press release at EurekAlert

What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? Traditionally it is thought that age leads to a steady deterioration of brain function, but new research in Topics in Cognitive Science argues that older brains may take longer to process ever increasing amounts of knowledge, and this has often been misidentified as declining capacity.

The study, led by Dr. Michael Ramscar of the University of Tuebingen, takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures are flawed, confusing increased knowledge for declining capacity.

Dr. Ramscar’s team used computers, programmed to act as though they were humans, to read a certain amount each day, learning new things along the way. When the researchers let a computer ‘read’ a limited amount, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult.

However, if the same computer was exposed data which represented a lifetime of experiences its performance looked like that of an older adult. Often it was slower, not because its processing capacity had declined, but because increased “experience” had caused the computer’s database to grow, giving it more data to process, and that processing takes time.

“What does this finding mean for our understanding of our ageing minds, for example older adults’ increased difficulties with word recall? These are traditionally thought to reveal how our memory for words deteriorates with age, but Big Data adds a twist to this idea,” said Dr. Ramscar. “Technology now allows researchers to make quantitative estimates about the number of words an adult can be expected to learn across a lifetime, enabling the team to separate the challenge that increasing knowledge poses to memory from the actual performance of memory itself.”

“Imagine someone who knows two people’s birthdays and can recall them almost perfectly. Would you really want to say that person has a better memory than a person who knows the birthdays of 2000 people, but can ‘only’ match the right person to the right birthday nine times out of ten?” asks Ramscar.

“It is time we rethink what we mean by the aging mind before our false assumptions result in decisions and policies that marginalize the old or waste precious public resources to remediate problems that do not exist,” said Topics in Cognitive Science, Editors Wayne Gray and Thomas Hills.

 

 

 

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Journal Article] People with highly superior powers of recall also vulnerable to false memories

From the 20 November 2013 Science 360 News Service

People who can accurately remember details of their daily lives going back decades are as susceptible as everyone else to forming fake memories, UC Irvine psychologists and neurobiologists have found. In a series of tests to determine how false information can manipulate memory formation, the researchers discovered that subjects with highly superior autobiographical memory logged scores similar to those of a control group of subjects with average memory. “

Finding susceptibility to false memories even in people with very strong memory could be important for dissemination to people who are not memory experts. For example, it could help communicate how widespread our basic susceptibility to memory distortions is,” said Lawrence Patihis, a graduate student in psychology & social behavior at UC Irvine. “This dissemination could help prevent false memories in the legal and clinical psychology fields, where contamination of memory has had particularly important consequences in the past.”

More on this finding from the UC Irvine press release

 

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Tip-of-the-tongue moments may be benign

The 2011 Association for Psychological Science...

The 2011 Association for Psychological Science convention, which featured a Wikipedia booth with information about the APS Wikipedia Initiative and the Wikipedia Ambassador Program (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 16 October 2013 EurekAlert

 

Despite the common fear that those annoying tip-of-the-tongue moments are signals of age-related memory decline, the two phenomena appear to be independent, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remained unclear, according to psychological scientist and lead author Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia:

“We wondered whether these self-reports are valid and, if they are, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia?”

To find out, Salthouse and Arielle Mandell — an undergraduate researcher who was working on her senior thesis — were able to elicit tip-of-the-tongue moments in the laboratory by asking over 700 participants ranging in age from 18 to 99 to give the names of famous places, common nouns, or famous people based on brief descriptions or pictures.

Throughout the study, participants indicated which answers they knew, which they didn’t, and which made them have a tip-of-the-tongue experience.

Several descriptions were particularly likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment, such as: “What is the name of the building where one can view images of celestial bodies on the inner surface of a dome?” and “What is the name of the large waterfall in Zambia that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World?” Of the pictures of the politicians and celebrities, Joe Lieberman and Ben Stiller were most likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment.

Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments than did their younger counterparts, confirming previous self-report data. But, after the researchers accounted for various factors including participants’ general knowledge, they found no association between frequency of tip-of-the-tongue moments and participants’ performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.

“Even though increased age is associated with lower levels of episodic memory and with more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences…the two phenomena seem to be largely independent of one another,” write Salthouse and Mandell, indicating that these frustrating occurrences by themselves should not be considered a sign of impending dementia.

 

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For more information about this study, please contact: Timothy A. Salthouse at salthouse@virginia.edu.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award from the University of Virginia.

The article abstract can be found online: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/08/0956797613495881.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=sppss;0956797613495881v1

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Do Age-Related Increases in Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences Signify Episodic Memory Impairments?” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

 

 

 

 

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , | 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

Wakeful Resting Can Boost New Memories

 

Sudoku layout

Sudoku layout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 25th July 2012 article at Medical News Today

 

Too often our memory starts acting like a particularly porous sieve: all the important fragments that should be caught and preserved somehow just disappear. So armed with pencils and bolstered by caffeine, legions of adults, especially older adults, tackle crossword puzzles, acrostics, Sudoku and a host of other activities designed to strengthen their flagging memory muscles.

But maybe all they really need to do to cement new learning is to sit and close their eyes for a few minutes. In an article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Michaela Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new – so keep the pencil for phone numbers – and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term. ..

…Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is “just at a very early stage of memory formation and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.”

We now live in a world where we are bombarded by new information and it crowds out recently acquired information. The process of consolidating memories takes a little time and the most important things that it needs are peace and quiet. 

 

 

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Study Shows High-Fructose Diet Sabotages Learning, Memory

From the 17 May article at Medical News Today

Attention, college students cramming between midterms and finals: Binging on soda and sweets for as little as six weeks may make you stupid.

A new UCLA rat study is the first to show how a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning – and how omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology has published the findings.

“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.” …

Gomez-Pinilla, a native of Chile and an exercise enthusiast who practices what he preaches, advises people to keep fructose intake to a minimum and swap sugary desserts for fresh berries and Greek yogurt, which he keeps within arm’s reach in a small refrigerator in his office. An occasional bar of dark chocolate that hasn’t been processed with a lot of extra sweetener is fine too, he said.

Still planning to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a hot-fudge sundae? Then also eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or take a daily DHA capsule. Gomez-Pinilla recommends one gram of DHA per day.

“Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”

May 17, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Forgetting is Key to a Healthy Mind

From the Scientific American Preview

Solomon Shereshevsky could recite entire speeches, word for word, after hearing them once. In minutes, he memorized complex math formulas, passages in foreign languages and tables consisting of 50 numbers or nonsense syllables. The traces of these sequences were so durably etched in his brain that he could reproduce them years later, according to Russian psychologist Alexander R. Luria, who wrote about the man he called, simply, “S” in The Mind of a Mnemonist.

 

Want to read the rest of the article? Check your local academic or public library.

It just might be available online through the library’s Web pages

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Did I Come In Here? How Walking Through Doorways Makes Us Forget

From the 20 November Medical News Today article

“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away.”

“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized,” he added.

Read the entire news article here

November 20, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , | Leave a comment

Air Pollution Linked To Learning And Memory Problems, Depression

Pollution-icon

Image via Wikipedia

From the 5 July 2011 Medical News Today item

 Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression, new research in mice suggests.

While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain, said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

“The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems,” Fonken said.

“This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world.”

The study appears online this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

A link to the abstract of the research article may be found here.
Access to the full text of the article requires a subscription.
Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost. 

 

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Study Shows That A Cluttered Brain Doesn’t Remember

A person making crossword puzzles.

Image via Wikipedia

From the 20 April 2011 Medical News Today item

Lapses in memory occur more frequently with age, yet the reasons for this increasing forgetfulness have not always been clear. According to new research from Concordia University, older individuals have reduced learning and memory because their minds tend to be cluttered with irrelevant information when performing tasks. Published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, these findings offer new insights into why aging is associated with a decline in memory and may lead to practical solutions. …

[An abstract of the article may be found here,

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

…For those who are having trouble remembering, Blair suggests that focusing and reducing mental clutter may help. “Reduce clutter, if you don’t, you may not get anything done.”

Keeping a mind clutter-free can be more difficult as people age, especially during periods of stress when people focus on stressors, yet Blair says relaxation exercises can help de-clutter the brain. What’s more, the brain continues to function optimally into old age when it is mentally stimulated by learning a new language, playing an instrument, completing crossword puzzles, keeping an active social life and exercising. …

 

 

 

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation may help the brain ‘turn down the volume’ on distractions

Enhanced control of alpha rhythms may underlie some effects of mindfulness meditation

From the 21 April 2011 Eureka news alert

(Massachusetts General Hospital) The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often overstimulating world….

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Sleep makes your memories stronger

From a November 12, 2010 Eureka news release

As humans, we spend about a third of our lives asleep. So there must be a point to it, right? Scientists have found that sleep helps consolidate memories, fixing them in the brain so we can retrieve them later. Now, new research is showing that sleep also seems to reorganize memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas, according to the authors of an article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Sleep is making memories stronger,” says Jessica D. Payne of the University of Notre Dame, who cowrote the review with Elizabeth A. Kensinger of Boston College. “It also seems to be doing something which I think is so much more interesting, and that is reorganizing and restructuring memories.”

Payne and Kensinger study what happens to memories during sleep, and they have found that a person tends to hang on to the most emotional part of a memory. For example, if someone is shown a scene with an emotional object, such as a wrecked car, in the foreground, they’re more likely to remember the emotional object than, say, the palm trees in the background—particularly if they’re tested after a night of sleep. They have also measured brain activity during sleep and found that regions of the brain involved with emotion and memory consolidation are active.

“In our fast-paced society, one of the first things to go is our sleep,” Payne says. “I think that’s based on a profound misunderstanding that the sleeping brain isn’t doing anything.” The brain is busy. It’s not just consolidating memories, it’s organizing them and picking out the most salient information. She thinks this is what makes it possible for people to come up with creative, new ideas.

Payne has taken the research to heart. “I give myself an eight-hour sleep opportunity every night. I never used to do that—until I started seeing my data,” she says. People who say they’ll sleep when they’re dead are sacrificing their ability to have good thoughts now, she says. “We can get away with less sleep, but it has a profound effect on our cognitive abilities.”

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Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of “Sleep’s Role in the Consolidation of Emotional Episodic Memories” *** and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

*** Click here for possibilities of getting this article for free

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

Sleep makes your memories stronger

From a November 12, 2010 Eureka news release

s humans, we spend about a third of our lives asleep. So there must be a point to it, right? Scientists have found that sleep helps consolidate memories, fixing them in the brain so we can retrieve them later. Now, new research is showing that sleep also seems to reorganize memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas, according to the authors of an article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Sleep is making memories stronger,” says Jessica D. Payne of the University of Notre Dame, who cowrote the review with Elizabeth A. Kensinger of Boston College. “It also seems to be doing something which I think is so much more interesting, and that is reorganizing and restructuring memories.”

Payne and Kensinger study what happens to memories during sleep, and they have found that a person tends to hang on to the most emotional part of a memory. For example, if someone is shown a scene with an emotional object, such as a wrecked car, in the foreground, they’re more likely to remember the emotional object than, say, the palm trees in the background—particularly if they’re tested after a night of sleep. They have also measured brain activity during sleep and found that regions of the brain involved with emotion and memory consolidation are active.

“In our fast-paced society, one of the first things to go is our sleep,” Payne says. “I think that’s based on a profound misunderstanding that the sleeping brain isn’t doing anything.” The brain is busy. It’s not just consolidating memories, it’s organizing them and picking out the most salient information. She thinks this is what makes it possible for people to come up with creative, new ideas.

Payne has taken the research to heart. “I give myself an eight-hour sleep opportunity every night. I never used to do that—until I started seeing my data,” she says. People who say they’ll sleep when they’re dead are sacrificing their ability to have good thoughts now, she says. “We can get away with less sleep, but it has a profound effect on our cognitive abilities.”

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Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of “Sleep’s Role in the Consolidation of Emotional Episodic Memories” and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

Brain Can Compensate for Cognitive Damage

From a November 3, 2010 Health Day news item

By Robert Preidt

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) — Undamaged areas of the brain can compensate for damage in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is important for memory and attention, a new study finds….

…”Our results show that the neural changes observed in movement recovery after motor cortex damage expand to cognitive domains and apply to a dynamic model of memory and attention compensation by the intact, undamaged cortex,” lead author Dr. Bradley Voytek, University of California at Berkeley, said in a journal news release.

“We demonstrate that brain recovery can manifest itself as transient changes in information processing occurring on a sub-second timescale after the injured brain has been challenged to perform,” he said, adding that this supported “a dynamic and flexible model of [nervous system] plasticity.”

The study appears in the Nov. 4 issue of Neuron

[This article is available online only through paid subscription. Ask a reference librarian at any public, academic, or medical library for how to get a copy. The library may charge a fee for a copy of this article]

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Nov. 3, 2010.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

Walking 6 to 9 Miles a Week May Help Save Memory

From a Health Day news item

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) — Walking about six miles a week appears to protect against brain shrinkage in old age, which in turn helps stem the onset of memory problems and cognitive decline, new research reveals.

“We have always been in search of the drug or the magic pill to help treat brain disorders,” noted Kirk I. Erickson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s lead author. “But really what we are after may be, at least partially, even simpler than that. Just by walking regularly, and so maintaining a little bit of moderate physical activity, you can reduce your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and [can] spare brain tissue.”

A report on the research, which was supported by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, is published online Oct. 13 in Neurology.

[Not yet available online (as of Oct 13, 2010)…if it is only available by paid subscription, check with your local public, academic, or medical library. Ask for a reference librarian. If it is only available from a library where you do not have borrowing privileges, there may be a charge for a copy. Again, ask a reference librarian for details.]

October 15, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

   

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