Chapter 18. Attention and Higher Cognition
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By Jan Brogan Paula Driscoll had a hard time sitting still as a kid, doodled a lot, and often wrestled with the feeling that she should be accomplishing more. But she made it through high school and college and became an elementary school teacher. With three small children at home, she did not feel she had trouble managing her life. But when her youngest child went to school, she found herself with what felt like too much time on her hands. “I couldn’t get anything done,” she said. “I had one room I started to paint, another I was going to reorganize, and I could never complete a task. I couldn’t stay in the house. I went out on one errand after the next.” Driscoll was 45 when she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. ADHD, a neurobiological disorder that makes it difficult to focus and can also include hyperactivity and impulsivity, has historically been viewed as a childhood disease. Over the last couple decades, research has shown that many of those afflicted carry symptoms into adulthood. The latest study, led by a Boston Children’s Hospital researcher and published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that nearly 30 percent of those with childhood ADHD still have the condition as adults — often after discontinuing treatment. The researchers followed hundreds of children with ADHD into adulthood and reported that the majority had mental health problems such as alcohol or drug dependence, anxiety, depression, or a personality disorder. © 2012 NY Times Co.
Jennifer Raymond I have a bias against women in science. Please don't hold this against me. I am a woman scientist, mentor and advocate for women in science, and an associate dean in my school's Office of Diversity, with a budding field biologist as a daughter. Yet my performance on the Implicit Association Test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo), which measures unconscious associations between concepts, revealed that I have a tendency to associate men with science and career, and women with liberal arts and family. I didn't even need to wait for my score; I could feel that my responses were slower and that I made more mistakes when I had to group science words such as 'astronomy' with female words such as 'wife' rather than male words such as 'uncle'. The results from hundreds of thousands of people indicate that I am not an outlier — 70% of men and women across 34 countries view science as more male than female1. Gender bias is not just a problem in science. A host of studies shows that people tend to rate women as less competent than men across many domains, from musical abilities to leadership2, and that many individuals hold biases about competency on the basis of other irrelevant attributes, such as skin colour, body weight, religion, sexual orientation and parental status. Such biases have important consequences in the workplace. One study showed that mothers are 79% less likely to be hired and are offered US$11,000 less salary than women with no children3. By contrast, the same study shows that parenthood confers an advantage to men in the workplace. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group,
by Trevor Quirk Many smartphones claim to filter out background noise, but they've got nothing on the human brain. We can tune in to just one speaker at a noisy cocktail party with little difficulty—an ability that has been a scientific mystery since the early 1950s. Now, researchers argue that the competing noise of other partygoers is filtered out in the brain before it reaches regions involved in higher cognitive functions, such as language and attention control. Their experiments were the first to demonstrate this process. The scientists didn't do anything as social as attend a noisy party. Instead, Charles Schroeder, a psychiatrist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and colleagues recorded the brain activity of six people with intractable epilepsy who required brain surgery. In order to identify the part of their brains responsible for seizures, the patients underwent 1 to 4 weeks of observation through electrocorticography (ECoG), a technique that provides precise neural recordings via electrodes placed directly on the surface of the brain. Schroeder and his team, using the ECoG data, conducted their experiments during this time. The researchers showed the patients two videos simultaneously, each of a person telling a 9- to 12-second story; they were asked to concentrate on just one speaker. To determine which neural recordings corresponded to the "ignored" and "attended" speech, the team reconstructed speech patterns from the brain's electrical activity using a mathematical model. The scientists then matched the reconstructed patterns with the original patterns coming from the ignored and attended speakers. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
by Elizabeth Norton The prospect of undergoing surgery while not fully "under" may sound like the stuff of horror movies. But one patient in a thousand remembers moments of awareness while under general anesthesia, physicians estimate. The memories are sometimes neutral images or sounds of the operating room, but occasionally patients report being fully aware of pain, terror, and immobility. Though surgeons scrupulously monitor vital signs such as pulse and blood pressure, anesthesiologists have no clear signal of whether the patient is conscious. But a new study finds that the brain may produce an early-warning signal that consciousness is returning—one that's detectable by electroencephalography (EEG), the recording of neural activity via electrodes on the skull. "We've known since the 1930s that brain activity changes dramatically with increasing doses of anesthetic," says the study's corresponding author, anesthesiologist Patrick Purdon of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "But monitoring a patient's brain with EEG has never become routine practice." Beginning in the 1990s, some anesthesiologists began using an approach called the bispectral (BIS) index, in which readings from a single electrode are connected to a device that calculates, and displays, a single number indicating where the patient's brain activity falls on a scale of 100 (fully conscious) to zero (a "flatline" EEG). Anything between 40 and 60 is considered the target range for unconsciousness. But this index and other similar ones are only indirect measurements, Purdon explains. In 2011, a team led by anesthesiologist Michael Avidan at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found that monitoring with the BIS index was slightly less successful at preventing awareness during surgery than the nonbrain-based method of measuring exhaled anesthesia in the patient's breath. Of the 2861 patients monitored with the BIS index, seven had memories of the surgery, whereas only two of 2852 patients whose breath was analyzed remembered anything. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By George Johnson In the week since I wrote about Oliver Sacks and the idiot savant twins, I’ve been catching up with Season 2 of “Touch,” the TV series about an autistic boy named Jake who has an inexplicable ability to commune with a secret world of numbers — a buried skein of mathematics in which the Golden Mean, the fibonacci sequence, the genetic code, and the Kabbalah are all mysteriously connected. Jungian synchronicity, quantum entanglement, chaos theory — all turn out to be manifestations of an underlying order in which everything that perplexes us ultimately makes sense. It is the dream of both mystics and scientists, and I had wondered shortly after the show first began how the conceit was going to be sustained through more than a few episodes. The connecting thread has turned out to be a conspiracy by a shadowy corporation called AsterCorp — as secretive and powerful as Massive Dynamic, purveyors of the mind-enhancing medicine Cortexiphan in “Fringe” — to kidnap Jake and others like him in their attempt to control the world. Or the universe. It is too soon to tell. Dr. Sacks’s twins, with their power to see, hear, smell — somehow sense within minutes if a number was prime — would also have been on AsterCorp’s wish list. Something keeps pulling me back to Sacks’s story. That is how enchanting a writer he is. (His memoir, Uncle Tungsten, is my favorite of his books.) There are plenty of accounts in the psychiatric literature of amazing human calculators and mnemonists. Sacks describes some famous cases in his essay. But what he thought he saw in the twins went far beyond that. Somehow, as Sacks described it, they could recognize that a number is prime in the way that one might recognize a face. Something on the surface of 3334401341 told them it was prime while 3334401343 was not.
Link ID: 17867 - Posted: 03.05.2013
by Sheila M. Eldred Picture someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and you probably conjure up an image of an elementary school-age boy. But an analysis of data from the first large, population-based study to follow kids through to adulthood shows that the neurobehavioral disorder rarely goes away with age. Indeed, as ADHD patients make the transition to adulthood, the issues they face often multiply: they are more likely to have other psychiatric disorders and even commit suicide, reports a new study published online today in Pediatrics. NEWS: ADHD Linked to Missing Genes In fact, researchers found that only 37.5 percent of the adults who had been diagnosed with the disorder as a child were free of other psychiatric disorders, including alcohol and drug dependence, in their late 20s. Very few of the children with ADHD were still being treated as adults -- although neuropsychiatric interviews confirmed that 29 percent still had it. “I think there has been a view that ADHD is a childhood disorder, and it’s only relatively recently that people have been trained to detect it in adults,” said Nathan Blum, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study. Among the adults who’d had ADHD as a child, 57 percent had at least one other psychiatric disorder, compared with 35 percent of the controls. Just under 2 percent percent had died; of the seven deaths, three were suicides. Of the controls, less than 1 percent had died. Of those 37 deaths, five were from suicide. And 2.7 percent were incarcerated at the time of recruitment for the study. © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC.
Link ID: 17865 - Posted: 03.04.2013
By Daisy Yuhas It's news chocolate lovers have been craving: raw cocoa may be packed with brain-boosting compounds. Researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy, with scientists from Mars, Inc., and their colleagues published findings last September that suggest cognitive function in the elderly is improved by ingesting high levels of natural compounds found in cocoa called flavanols. The study included 90 individuals with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. Subjects who drank a cocoa beverage containing either moderate or high levels of flavanols daily for eight weeks demonstrated greater cognitive function than those who consumed low levels of flavanols on three separate tests that measured factors that included verbal fluency, visual searching and attention. Exactly how cocoa causes these changes is still unknown, but emerging research points to one flavanol in particular: (-)-epicatechin, pronounced “minus epicatechin.” Its name signifies its structure, differentiating it from other catechins, organic compounds highly abundant in cocoa and present in apples, wine and tea. The graph below shows how (-)-epicatechin fits into the world of brain-altering food molecules. Other studies suggest that the compound supports increased circulation and the growth of blood vessels, which could explain improvements in cognition, because better blood flow would bring the brain more oxygen and improve its function. Animal research has already demonstrated how pure (-)-epicatechin enhances memory. Findings published last October in the Journal of Experimental Biology note that snails can remember a trained task—such as holding their breath in deoxygenated water—for more than a day when given (-)-epicatechin but for less than three hours without the flavanol. Salk Institute neuroscientist Fred Gage and his colleagues found previously that (-)-epicatechin improves spatial memory and increases vasculature in mice. “It's amazing that a single dietary change could have such profound effects on behavior,” Gage says. If further research confirms the compound's cognitive effects, flavanol supplements—or raw cocoa beans—could be just what the doctor ordered. © 2013 Scientific American
By George Johnson The mystery of whether there is a natural resonance between music and our brains, as I mentioned in a post last week, brings up an even deeper question: whether mathematics itself is neurologically innate, giving the mind (or some minds) direct access to the structure of the universe. Thinking about that recently led me back to one of Oliver Sack’s most astonishing essays. It appeared in his collection The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and is about two twins, idiot savants who appeared to have an almost supernatural ability to quickly tell if a number is prime. Prime numbers are those that cannot be broken down into factors — smaller numbers that can be multiplied together to produce the larger one. They have been described as the atoms of the number system. 11 and 13 are obviously prime while 12 and 14 are not. But with larger numbers our brains are quickly flummoxed. Is 7244985277 prime? I just typed the digits by twitching my fingers along the top row of my keyboard. To test the number by hand I would have to start at the beginning of the number system and begin trying out the possible divisors. There are shortcuts to avoid testing every single one. We know 2 can’t be a factor since 7244985277, like all primes, is odd. For the same reason we can rule out all even factors. And you only have to test factors up to the square root of a number. (The factors of 100 are 2 x 50, 4 x 25, 5 x 20, and 10 x 10. Testing beyond 10 would be redundant.)
Link ID: 17847 - Posted: 02.26.2013
by Julia Sklar IT IS a nightmare situation. A person diagnosed as being in a vegetative state has an operation without anaesthetic because they cannot feel pain. Except, maybe they can. Alexandra Markl at the Schön clinic in Bad Aibling, Germany, and colleagues studied people with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS) – also known as vegetative state – and identified activity in brain areas involved in the emotional aspects of pain. People with UWS can make reflex movements but can't show subjective awareness. There are two distinct neural networks that work together to create the sensation of pain. The more basic of the two – the sensory-discriminative network – identifies the presence of an unpleasant stimulus. It is the affective network that attaches emotions and subjective feelings to the experience. Crucially, without the activity of the emotional network, your brain detects pain but won't interpret it as unpleasant. Using PET scans, previous studies have detected activation in the sensory-discriminative network in people with UWS but their findings were consistent with a lack of subjective awareness, the hallmark of the condition. Now Markl and her colleagues have found evidence of activation in the affective or emotional network too (Brain and Behavior, doi.org/kfs). © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Ingrid Wickelgren How many times have you arrived someplace but had no memory of the trip there? Have you ever been sitting in an auditorium daydreaming, not registering what the people on stage are saying or playing? We often spin through our days lost in mental time travel, thinking about something from the past, or future, leaving us oblivious to what is happening right around us right now. In doing so, we miss much of life. We also make ourselves relatively miserable, and prone to poor performance and mishaps. peaceful scene, village by the water. The opposite mental state, mindfulness, is a calm, focused awareness of the present. Cultivating that state is associated with improvements in both mental and physical health, as you will learn from the current cover story of Scientific American Mind (see “Mindfulness Can Improve Your Attention and Health” by Amishi P. Jha). It can even ameliorate mental illness. It turns out that mindfulness training works in large part by training our ability to pay attention. As we learn to focus on the here and now, we also learn to manipulate our mental focus more generally. The ability to direct our own minds at will means we control what we think about. It is no wonder that honing such a skill can make us happier. It can also boost the performance of soldiers, surgeons, athletes and many others who need to maintain a tight focus on what they are doing. Some people are naturally more mindful than others, but it is possible to train yourself to enter this state more often. Simple exercises performed as little as 12 minutes daily can help you become more mindful. For a sample exercise, watch this video “Learn to Live in the Now.” © 2013 Scientific American
Link ID: 17824 - Posted: 02.19.2013
by Nic Halverson By studying a magic trick that has been around for thousands of years, neuroscientists have shed light on human attention and visual systems -- as well as on the trick, itself. "Magicians, in particular, are very intellectual performance artists. They are very interested in the mind and how behavior happens," Dr. Stephen Macknik, director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute(BNI), told Discovery News. "What scientists are doing when we study perception is pretty much the same thing, except we're using the scientific method." The hope is that magicians' intuitive insight could help instruct the field of neuroscience and perhaps, even be applied in medicine to help people with attention deficit issues. In their study, recently published in the inaugural issue of PeerJ, the researchers focused upon a famous trick by a pair of very famous magicians. Penn & Teller's 10-year run at The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino has made them one of the longest-running and most beloved acts in Las Vegas history. Their trick, "Cups and Balls," is a classic illusion performed by Roman magicians as far back as 2,000 years ago when gladiators still battled in the Colosseum. While the trick has many derivatives, the most common uses three brightly colored balls and three opaque cups. Using sleight-of-hand, the magician seemingly makes the balls pass through the bottoms of cups, jump from cup to cup, disappear and reappear elsewhere or turn into entirely different objects. In Penn & Teller's case, that different object is often a potato. © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC. T
Link ID: 17792 - Posted: 02.13.2013
By melody Yesterday, Alan Schwarz, reporting for the Sunday edition of The New York Times, published an alarmist piece on Adderall abuse. The story chronicles the short life of Richard Fee, a popular young pre-med who, after dabbling in fast-acting stimulants in college, faked his way into an ADHD diagnosis and, within months of filling his first prescription, began heavily abusing the drug, leading to severe addiction and psychosis, and ultimately to his suicide, two years ago, at the age of twenty-four. The story of Richard Fee is a tragic one, and one that highlights both the dangers of prescribing ADHD drugs to neurotypical adults and some of the problems endemic in psychiatric diagnosis. Regrettably, the reporter seems to believe that these problems are somehow specific to amphetamines, signaling “widespread failings in the system through which five million Americans take medication for ADHD”, and that Richard’s harrowing case, while undoubtedly rare, “underscores aspects of ADHD treatment that are mishandled every day with countless patients”. Schwarz is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist, renowned for exposing the danger of concussive head injuries in football. More recently, he has cast that same critical eye on how attention-deficit disorder is diagnosed. The question is – to what end? Presumably – in the case of this story – to tighten the restrictions on how amphetamines are prescribed to adults, and to ward against the kind of negligence and lack of oversight that characterized Richard’s case. But there is a delicate balance to be struck here between serving the needs of the ADHD population, many of whom benefit tremendously from the regulated use of stimulants, and potential drug addicts, like Richard. It is also far from clear, given the nature of psychiatric nosology, that there are any surefire ways of stopping con-artists and addicts from gaming the system. © 2013 Scientific American
By ALAN SCHWARZ VIRGINIA BEACH — Every morning on her way to work, Kathy Fee holds her breath as she drives past the squat brick building that houses Dominion Psychiatric Associates. It was there that her son, Richard, visited a doctor and received prescriptions for Adderall, an amphetamine-based medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It was in the parking lot that she insisted to Richard that he did not have A.D.H.D., not as a child and not now as a 24-year-old college graduate, and that he was getting dangerously addicted to the medication. It was inside the building that her husband, Rick, implored Richard’s doctor to stop prescribing him Adderall, warning, “You’re going to kill him.” It was where, after becoming violently delusional and spending a week in a psychiatric hospital in 2011, Richard met with his doctor and received prescriptions for 90 more days of Adderall. He hanged himself in his bedroom closet two weeks after they expired. The story of Richard Fee, an athletic, personable college class president and aspiring medical student, highlights widespread failings in the system through which five million Americans take medication for A.D.H.D., doctors and other experts said. Medications like Adderall can markedly improve the lives of children and others with the disorder. But the tunnel-like focus the medicines provide has led growing numbers of teenagers and young adults to fake symptoms to obtain steady prescriptions for highly addictive medications that carry serious psychological dangers. These efforts are facilitated by a segment of doctors who skip established diagnostic procedures, renew prescriptions reflexively and spend too little time with patients to accurately monitor side effects. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Wray Herbert The Invisible Gorilla is part of the popular culture nowadays, thanks largely to a widely-read 2010 book of that title. In that book, authors and cognitive psychologists Dan Simons and Christopher Chabris popularized a phenomenon of human perception—known in the jargon as “inattentional blindness”—which they had demonstrated in a study some years before. In the best known version of the experiment, volunteers were told to keep track of how many times some basketball players tossed a basketball. While they did this, someone in a gorilla suit walked across the basketball court, in plain view, yet many of the volunteers failed even to notice the beast. What the invisible gorilla study shows is that, if we are paying very close attention to one thing, we often fail to notice other things in our field of vision—even very obvious things. We all love these quirks of human perception. It’s entertaining to know that our senses can play tricks on us. And that’s no doubt the extent of most people’s familiarity with this psychological phenomenon. But what if this perceptual quirk has serious implications—even life-threatening implications? A new study raises that disturbing possibility. Three psychological scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—Trafton Drew, Melissa Vo and Jeremy Wolfe—wondered if expert observers are also subject to this perceptual blindness. The subjects in the classic study were “naïve”—untrained in any particular domain of expertise and performing a task nobody does in real life. But what about highly trained professionals who make their living doing specialized kinds of observations? The scientists set out to explore this, and in an area of great importance to many people—cancer diagnosis. © Association for Psychological Science
Link ID: 17744 - Posted: 02.02.2013
By Mark Fischetti Various scholars have tried to explain consciousness in long articles and books, but one neuroscience pioneer has just released an unusual video blog to get the point across. In the sharply filmed and edited production, Joseph LeDoux, a renowned expert on the emotional brain at New York University, interrogates his NYU colleague Ned Block on the nature of consciousness. Block is a professor of philosophy, psychology and neural science and is considered a leading thinker on the subject. The interview ends with a transition into a music video performed by LeDoux’s longstanding band, the Amygdaloids. The whole exercise is a bit quirky, yet it succeeds in explaining consciousness in simple, even entertaining terms. LeDoux intends to produce a series of these video blogs to explore other intriguing aspects of the mind and brain, and he is giving Scientific American the chance to post them first on our Web site. LeDoux has already interviewed Michael Gazzaniga at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on free will and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel at Columbia University on mapping the mind. The video is not a quick hit, like most on the Net these days. The interview runs about 10 minutes, followed by the four-minute music video. The idea is for viewers to sit back and actually think along with the expert as his or her explanation unfolds. Yet video producer Alexis Gambis has generated some compelling imagery to keep our visual attention as Block unwraps his subject. Gambis directs the Imagine Science Film Festival, is about to complete his graduate degree in film and has a doctorate in molecular biology. © 2013 Scientific American
Link ID: 17732 - Posted: 01.29.2013
By ISABEL KERSHNER JERUSALEM — A brain scan performed on Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister who had a devastating stroke seven years ago and is presumed to be in a vegetative state, revealed significant brain activity in response to external stimuli, raising the chances that he is able to hear and understand, a scientist involved in the test said Sunday. Scientists showed Mr. Sharon, 84, pictures of his family, had him listen to a recording of the voice of one of his sons and used tactile stimulation to assess the extent of his brain’s response. “We were surprised that there was activity in the proper parts of the brain,” said Prof. Alon Friedman, a neuroscientist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a member of the team that carried out the test. “It raises the chances that he hears and understands, but we cannot be sure. The test did not prove that.” The activity in specific regions of the brain indicated appropriate processing of the stimulations, according to a statement from Ben-Gurion University, but additional tests to assess Mr. Sharon’s level of consciousness were less conclusive. “While there were some encouraging signs, these were subtle and not as strong,” the statement added. The test was carried out last week at the Soroka University Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba using a state-of-the-art M.R.I. machine and methods recently developed by Prof. Martin M. Monti of the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Monti took part in the test, which lasted approximately two hours. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Doctors should resist the temptation to use an inexpensive tool that probes the brain's electrical activity when evaluating vegetative patients who can't communicate. Drs. Adrian Owen and Damian Cruse of the Centre for Brain and Mind in London, Ont., promoted the use of electroencephalography or EEG that can be used at a patient's bedside to determine if there's neurological activity in people in a vegetative state — those who are unresponsive in traditional tests of awareness. In a letter published in Thursday's issue of the medical journal The Lancet, Dr. Jonathan Victor of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and his co-authors reanalyzed data shared from Owen's 2011 paper in the same journal. "I think we'd be very, very cautious about using this technology as it stands now," said Victor. Both groups agree the use of EEG technology remains promising to evaluate patients. The challenge, Victor said, is researchers can't be certain about their interpretations when faced with families trying to communicate with their loved ones, including for end-of-life discussions. The critique casts doubt on the original statistical approach and assumptions, which didn't hold when analyzed with a different model. In a rebuttal, Owen's team defended its approach as the only way to draw valid conclusions from vegetative patients and account for their variations. "There are few 'known truths' when attempting to detect covert awareness," Owen's team wrote. "Some are likely to be truly vegetative, while others may appear to be vegetative behaviorally, but are in fact, covertly aware." © CBC 2013
By Linda Carroll In just 10 years the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, rose dramatically, a large new study suggests. Overall, about 5 percent of nearly 843,000 kids ages 5 to 11 were diagnosed between 2001 and 2010 with the condition that can cause impulsive behavior and trouble concentrating. But during that time, rates of new ADHD diagnoses skyrocketed 24 percent – jumping from 2.5 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2010. That’s according to a comprehensive review of medical records for children who were covered by the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan. Rates rose most among minority kids during the study period, climbing nearly 70 percent overall in black children, and 60 percent among Hispanic youngsters, according the study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Among black girls, ADHD rates jumped 90 percent. Rates remained highest in white children, climbing from 4.7 percent to 5.6 percent during the study period. The biggest factor driving this increase may be the heightened awareness of ADHD among parents, teachers, and pediatricians, says the study’s lead author Dr. Darios Getahun, a scientist with Kaiser Permanente. For kids who need help, that’s a good thing, Getahun says. “The earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier we can initiate treatment which leads to a better outcome for the child,” he says. © 2013 NBCNews.com
People taking opioid painkillers face higher risks of car accidents even at low doses, say Ontario researchers who want patients to be warned that the drugs can decrease alertness. Knowing that use of opioids like oxycodone, codeine and morphine has increased in North America and that driver simulation studies suggest that the drugs hinder alertness and act as a sedative, researchers at Toronto's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences looked at emergency department visits among adults treated with opoids. They defined road trauma as motor vehicle crashes that required a visit to emergency. The increased risk for drivers taking opioids started with the lowest doses equivalent to 20 milligrams of morphine. The increased risk for drivers taking opioids started with the lowest doses equivalent to 20 milligrams of morphine. (iStock) Compared with very low doses of opioids, drivers prescribed low doses such as 20 milligrams of morphine showed 21 per cent increased odds of car accidents which rose to 42 per cent for those prescribed high doses, Tara Gomes and her co-authors reported in Monday's issue of the JAMA Internal Medicine, formerly Archives of Internal Medicine. "What was surprising to us was this increased risk started even at what many people consider to be fairly low doses of opioids," Gomes said in an interview. © CBC 2013
Ewen Callaway In the mid-1980s, Paul Moorcraft, then a war correspondent, journeyed with a film crew into Afghanistan to produce a documentary about the fifth anniversary of the Soviet invasion. The trip took them behind Soviet lines. “We were attacked every fucking day by the Russians,” says the colourful Welshman. But the real trouble started later, when Moorcraft tried to tally his expenses, such as horses and local garb for his crew. Even with a calculator, the simple sums took him ten times longer than they should have. “It was an absolute nightmare. I spent days and days and days.” When he finally sent the bill to an accountant, he had not realized that after adding a zero he was claiming millions of pounds for a trip that had cost a couple of hundred thousand. “He knew I was an honest guy and assumed that it was just a typo.” Such mistakes were part of a lifelong pattern for Moorcraft, now director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis in London and the author of more than a dozen books. He hasn't changed his phone number or PIN in years for fear that he would never remember new ones, and when working for Britain's Ministry of Defence he put subordinates in charge of remembering safe codes. In 2003, a mistaken phone number — one of hundreds before it — lost him a girlfriend who was convinced he was out gallivanting. That finally convinced him to seek an explanation. At the suggestion of a friend who teaches children with learning disabilities, Moorcraft contacted Brian Butterworth, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London who studies numerical cognition. After conducting some tests, Butterworth concluded that Moorcraft was “a disaster at arithmetic” and diagnosed him with dyscalculia, a little-known learning disability sometimes called number blindness and likened to dyslexia for maths. Researchers estimate that as much as 7% of the population has dyscalculia, which is marked by severe difficulties in dealing with numbers despite otherwise normal (or, in Moorcraft's case, probably well above normal) intelligence. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
Link ID: 17666 - Posted: 01.10.2013