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By Joshua Rapp Learn The Vietnamese pygmy dormouse is as blind as a bat—and it navigates just like one, too. Scientists have found that the small, nimble brown rodent (Typhlomys cinereus chapensis), native to Vietnam and parts of China, uses sound waves to get a grip on its environment. Measurements of the mice in the Moscow Zoo revealed that the species can't see objects because of a folded retina and a low number of neurons capable of collecting visual information, among other things. When researchers recorded the animals, they discovered they make ultrasonic noises similar to those used by some bat species, and videos showed they made the sounds at a much greater pulse rate when moving than while resting. These sound waves bounce off objects, allowing the rodent to sense its surroundings—an ability known as echolocation, or biological sonar. The find makes the dormouse the only tree-climbing mammal known to use ultrasonic echolocation, the team reports in Integrative Zoology. The authors suggest that an extinct ancestor of these dormice was likely a leaf bed–dwelling animal that lost the ability to see in the darkness in which it is active. As the animals began to move up into the trees over time, they likely developed the ultrasonic echolocation abilities to help them deal with a new acrobatic lifestyle. The discovery lends support to the idea that bats may have evolved echolocation before the ability to fly. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 23080 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Sally Adee Now we know – zapping the brain with electricity really does seem to improve some medical conditions, meaning it may be a useful tool for treating depression. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves using electrodes to send a weak current across the brain. Stimulating brain tissue like this has been linked to effects ranging from accelerated learning to improving the symptoms of depression and faster recovery from strokes. Thousands of studies have suggested the technique may be useful for everything from schizophrenia and Parkinson’s to tinnitus and autism. However, replicating such studies has generally been difficult, and two recent analyses found no evidence that tDCS is effective, leading some to say that the technique is largely a sham. “There are too many folks out there right now who are using electrical brain stimulation in a cavalier way,” says Michael Weisend, a tDCS researcher at Rio Grande Neuroscience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “At best it has an effect that’s poorly understood, at worst it could be dangerous.” Now a review has weighed up the best available evidence. It has found that depression, addiction and fibromyalgia are most likely to respond to tDCS treatment. Jean-Pascal Lefaucheur, a neurophysiologist at Henri Mondor Hospital in Paris, France, and his team concluded this by sifting through all tDCS studies so far. Unlike the two previous analyses, this one didn’t lump together studies of variable sizes and designs. Instead, the team chose only studies that were placebo-controlled, used tDCS as a daily medical treatment, and involved at least 10 participants. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 23079 - Posted: 01.10.2017

Anouchka Grose Dannii Minogue has admitted to using Botox at difficult times in her life in a subconscious attempt to mask her feelings. Not only might she literally have been disabling her capacity to frown, she may also have been acting things out on her body in order to fend off her own emotions. Is America developing a ‘crack-like addiction’ to Botox beauty? Read more It’s about time someone said it. As a working therapist I have occasionally noticed my female patients’ faces change quite noticeably from week to week, but no one has ever spoken to me about what was making this happen. Cosmetic treatments, and the difficult thoughts and feelings that might make someone undergo them, are apparently one of the hardest things to talk about. On the one hand perhaps these treatments are so normalised that they do not seem worth discussing in therapy – a new study in the US shows that young women using Botox has risen by 41% since 2011 – but on the other you probably wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on something that carried serious health risks if you weren’t feeling pretty worried about your appearance. Doing stuff to your face is like the sunny side of self-harm; you might try it in order to short-circuit anxiety or sadness, but the end result is supposedly regeneration rather than damage. Still, nothing signals underlying unhappiness and self-loathing more than a pumped-up, frozen physiognomy. In that sense, it’s a socially acceptable form of wound. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 23078 - Posted: 01.10.2017

Dima Amso, The early years of parenthood involve so many rewarding firsts—when your infant cracks a toothless grin, when he crawls and later walks, and, of course, when he utters a real, nonbabble word. A mother once told me she found it sad that if she were to pass away suddenly, her toddler wouldn't remember her or these exciting years. It is true that most of us don't remember much, if anything, from our infancy. So at what point do children start making long-term memories? I must first explain the different types of memory we possess. As I type this, I am using procedural memory—a form of motor memory in which my fingers just know how to type. In contrast, declarative memories represent two types of long-term recall—semantic and episodic. Semantic memory allows us to remember general facts—for example, that Alfred Hitchcock directed the film Vertigo; episodic memory encompasses our ability to recall personal experiences or facts—that Vertigo is my favorite film. Episodic memories are most relevant for understanding our childhood recollections. Making an episodic memory requires binding together different details of an event—when it happened and where, how we felt and who was there—and retrieving that information later. The processes involve the medial temporal lobes, most notably the hippocampus, and portions of the parietal and prefrontal cortices, which are very important in memory retrieval. Imaging studies often show that the same regions that encode an episode—for example, the visual cortex for vivid visual experiences—are active when we recall that memory, allowing for a kind of “mental time travel” or replay of the event. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23077 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Alice Klein Mothers hold their children more on the left and wild mammals seem to keep their young more on that so too, at least when fleeing predators. Now it seems many mammal babies prefer to approach their mother from one side too – and the explanation may lie in the contrasting talents of each half of the brain. In mammals, the brain’s right hemisphere is responsible for processing social cues and building relationships. It is also the half of the brain that receives signals from the left eye. Some researchers think this explains why human and ape mothers tend to cradle their babies on the left: it is so they can better monitor their facial expressions with their left eye. Now, Janeane Ingram at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and her colleagues have looked at whether animal infants also prefer to observe their mum from one side. The team studied 11 wild mammals from around the world: horses, reindeer, antelopes, oxen, sheep, walruses, three species of whale and two species of kangaroo. Whenever an infant approached its mother from behind, the researchers noted whether it positioned itself on its mum’s left or right side. They recorded almost 11,000 position choices for 175 infant-mother pairs. Infants of all species were more likely to position themselves so that their mother was on their left. This happened about three-quarters of the time. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Laterality; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23076 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News Researchers have used camera traps to film tool-use that is unique to chimpanzees in Ivory Coast. The footage revealed that the clever primates habitually make special water-dipping sticks - chewing the end of the stick to turn it into a soft, water-absorbing brush. Primate researchers examined the "dipping sticks" and concluded they were made specifically for drinking. The findings are reported in the American Journal of Primatology. Lead researcher Juan Lapuente, from the Comoe Chimpanzee Conservation Project, in Ivory Coast, explained that using similar brush-tipped sticks to dip into bees' nests for honey was common in chimpanzee populations across Africa. "But the use of brush-tipped sticks to dip for water is completely new and had never been described before," he told BBC News. "These chimps use especially long brush tips that they make specifically for water - much longer than those used for honey." The researchers tested the chimps' drinking sticks in an "absorption experiment", which showed that the particularly long brush-tips provided an advantage. "The longer the brush, the more water they collect," said Mr Lapuente. "This technology allows Comoe chimpanzees to obtain water from extremely narrow and deep tree holes that only they - and no other animal - can exploit, which [gives] them a superb adaptive advantage to survive in this dry and unpredictable environment." © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 23075 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Virginia Morell Japanese macaques and sika deer live comfortably together on Japan’s Yakushima Island: The deer eat fruit the monkeys drop from the trees, and the monkeys groom and sometimes hitch a ride on the deer. But a couple years ago, one of the macaques took this relationship to a new level. Unable to get a mate of his own kind, this low-ranking snow monkey used the deer’s back for his pleasure (as pictured, and also shown in this not-suitable-for-work video). He did not penetrate her, but did ejaculate, and the deer then licked her back clean, researchers report in the current issue of Primates. The monkey was later seen attempting to mount another deer, but she objected and threatened him. He also guarded his unlikely love interests, chasing away any other male monkeys who came near. Scientists have only reported one other case of sexual relations in the wild between unrelated species. That one involved male Antarctic fur seals coercing king penguins; once, after sating his lust, the seal ate the bird. In both cases, scientists suspect that the males were unable to acquire a mate of their own kind, and seasonal hormonal surges led them to seek love elsewhere. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23074 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Greg Miller Babies born prematurely are prone to problems later in life—they’re more likely to develop autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more likely to struggle in school. A new study that’s among the first to investigate brain activity in human fetuses suggests that the underlying neurological issues may begin in the womb. The findings provide the first direct evidence of altered brain function in fetuses that go on to be born prematurely, and they might ultimately point to ways to remediate or even prevent such early injuries. In the new study, published 9 January in Scientific Reports, developmental neuroscientist Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, and colleagues report a difference in how certain brain regions communicate with each other in fetuses that were later born prematurely compared with fetuses that were carried to term. Although the findings are preliminary because the study was small, Thomason and other researchers say the work illustrates the potential (and the challenges) of the emerging field of fetal neuroimaging. “Harnessing the power of these advanced tools is offering us for the very first time the opportunity to explore the onset of neurologic insults that are happening in utero,” says Catherine Limperopoulos, a pediatric neuroscientist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Thomason and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate brain activity in 32 fetuses. The pregnant mothers were participants in a larger, long-term study of brain development led by Thomason. “The majority have just normal pregnancies, but they’re drawn from a low-resource population that’s at greater risk of early delivery and developmental problems,” she says. In the end, 14 of the fetuses were born prematurely. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23072 - Posted: 01.09.2017

Riley Beggin Matt Herich uses a tDCS device that was made by another student he met on Reddit. Four 9-volt batteries and sticky self-adhesive electrodes are connected by a circuit board that sends a constant small current to the user's brain. Courtesy of Matt Herich Last October, Matt Herich was listening to the news while he drove door to door delivering pizzas. A story came on the radio about a technology that sends an electric current through your brain to possibly make you better at some things — moving, remembering, learning. He was fascinated. The neurotechnology is called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS for short. At its simplest, the method involves a device that uses little more than a 9-volt battery and some electrodes to send a low-intensity electrical current to a targeted area of the brain, typically via a headset. More than a 1,000 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals over the last decade suggesting benefits of the technique — maybe regulating mood, possibly improving language skills — but its effects, good or bad, are far from clear. Although researchers see possibilities for tDCS in treating diseases and boosting performance, it's still an exploratory technology, says Mark George, editor-in-chief of Brain Stimulation, a leading journal on neuromodulation. And leading experts have warned against at-home use of such devices. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23071 - Posted: 01.09.2017

Brandie Jefferson When I told my coworker that I was participating in a study that involved fasting, she laughed until she nearly cried. My boyfriend, ever supportive, asked hesitantly, "Are you sure you want to try this?" Note the use of "try" instead of "do." When I told my father over the phone, the line went silent for a moment. Then he let out a long, "Welllllll," wished me luck, and chuckled. Turns out, luck might not be enough. I like to eat. Often and a lot. Now, however, my eating habits have become more than a source of amusement for friends and coworkers. Now they are data in a study focusing on people with multiple sclerosis, like me. The pilot study, led by Dr. Ellen Mowry at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is looking at the impact of intermittent fasting on our microbiomes — the universe of trillions of microbes, mainly bacteria, that live in our guts. Intermittent fasting is pretty much what it sounds like. For six months, participants are allowed to eat during an 8-hour period each day. The remaining 16 hours we are limited to water, tea and coffee. No added sugar, cream, honey or sweetener. Several studies have suggested that the predominant bacteria in the guts of people with MS tend to be different than those in the guts of those without the chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease, according to Samantha Roman, the study's research coordinator. Depending on their makeup, bacteria have the ability to soothe or trigger inflammation, potentially affecting the symptoms of MS and other diseases. Exactly how gut bacteria and inflammation are related, though, is not well understood. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis
Link ID: 23070 - Posted: 01.09.2017

By Ellen Hendriksen Pop quiz: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “ADHD”? a. Getting distracted b. Ants-in-pants c. Elementary school boys d. Women and girls Most likely, you didn’t pick D. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. For most people, ADHD conjures a mental image of school-aged boys squirming at desks or bouncing off walls, not a picture of adults, girls, or especially adult women. Both scientists and society have long pinned ADHD on males, even though girls and women may be just as likely to suffer from this neurodevelopmental disorder. Back in 1987, the American Psychiatric Association stated that the male to female ratio for ADHD was 9 to 1. Twenty years later, however, an epidemiological study of almost 4,000 kids found the ratio was more like 1 to 1—half girls, half boys. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: ADHD; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23069 - Posted: 01.09.2017

By Meredith Wadman In athletes who suffered a concussion, a protein in their blood may be able to predict when they can return to action. A new study finds that those who took longer to return to play had higher levels of a protein known as tau in their blood in the 6 hours following the trauma than players who were cleared to return to the field sooner. Tau blood testing isn’t ready for prime time, but experts say that if it pans out it would become an invaluable tool for coaches and physicians alike. Trainers, sports physicians, and neurologists deal with some 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States each year. But they still lack an objective medical test to establish whether someone has sustained the injury, and at what point they have recovered enough from one to resume playing. Instead, they are forced to rely on often-nebulous physical signs, and on players’ self-reporting of symptoms. And it’s known that players, keen to get back on the field, often minimize these. “We don’t want a biomarker that just says somebody had a concussion,” says study leader Jessica Gill, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Nursing Research in Bethesda, Maryland. “We want a biomarker that says who needs to be out of play to recover.” Gill, with concussion physician Jeffrey Bazarian of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, and colleagues took preseason blood samples from more than 600 male and female University of Rochester athletes who participate in contact sports: football, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse. In it, they measured levels of tau, a protein linked to traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease, which has been found to be elevated in the blood of Olympic boxers and concussed ice hockey players. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Alzheimers
Link ID: 23068 - Posted: 01.07.2017

By Drake Baer Philosophers have been arguing about the nature of will for at least 2,000 years. It’s at the core of blockbuster social-psychology findings, from delayed gratification to ego depletion to grit. But it’s only recently, thanks to the tools of brain imaging, that the act of willing is starting to be captured at a mechanistic level. A primary example is “cognitive control,” or how the brain selects goal-serving behavior from competing processes like so many unruly third-graders with their hands in the air. It’s the rare neuroscience finding that’s immediately applicable to everyday life: By knowing the way the brain is disposed to behaving or misbehaving in accordance to your goals, it’s easier to get the results you’re looking for, whether it’s avoiding the temptation of chocolate cookies or the pull of darkly ruminative thoughts. Jonathan Cohen, who runs a neuroscience lab dedicated to cognitive control at Princeton, says that it underlies just about every other flavor of cognition that’s thought to “make us human,” whether it’s language, problem solving, planning, or reasoning. “If I ask you not to scratch the mosquito bite that you have, you could comply with my request, and that’s remarkable,” he says. Every other species — ape, dog, cat, lizard — will automatically indulge in the scratching of the itch. (Why else would a pup need a post-surgery cone?) It’s plausible that a rat or monkey could be taught not to scratch an itch, he says, but that would probably take thousands of trials. But any psychologically and physically able human has the capacity to do so. “It’s a hardwired reflex that is almost certainly coded genetically,” he says. “But with three words — don’t scratch it — you can override those millions of years of evolution. That’s cognitive control.” © 2017, New York Media LLC.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 23067 - Posted: 01.07.2017

By Joshua A. Krisch At the core of Alzheimer’s disease are amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides, which self-assemble into protein fibrils that form telltale plaques in the brain. Now, the results of a study published today (January 4) in Nature suggest that certain fibril formations are more likely to appear in cases of rapidly progressive Alzheimer’s disease, as opposed to less-severe subtypes. The findings increase scientists’ understanding of the structure of these fibrils, and may eventually contribute to new tests and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. “It is generally believed that some form of the aggregated Aβ peptide leads to Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s conceivable that different fibril structures could lead to neurodegeneration with different degrees of aggressiveness,” said coauthor Robert Tycko, a principal investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease. “But the mechanism by which this happens is uncertain. Some structures may be more inert and benign. Others may be more inherently toxic or prone to spread throughout the brain tissue.” Prior research has demonstrated that Aβ fibrils with various molecular structures exhibit different levels of toxicity in neuronal cell cultures, a finding confirmed in subsequent mouse trials. One study even demonstrated that Aβ fibrils cultured from patients with rapidly progressive Alzheimer’s disease are different in size and resistance to chemical denaturation than those isolated from patients with more slowly progressing disease. Building on these observations, Tycko and colleagues set out to better characterize the structures of these fibrils and get a better handle on the potential correlations between structure and disease subtype. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 23066 - Posted: 01.07.2017

By Andy Coghlan Is the fabled “cuddle hormone” really a “warmone”? Oxytocin levels surge in troops of chimpanzees preparing for conflict with rival groups to defend or expand their territory. The finding is at odds with the prevailing image of oxytocin as something that helps strengthen bonds between parent and infant, or foster friendships. But given its capacity to strengthen loyalty, oxytocin could also be a warmonger hormone that helps chimps galvanise and cooperate against a common enemy. Catherine Crockford of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and her colleagues monitored two rival groups of chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast, each containing five males and five females, for prolonged periods between October 2013 and May 2015. Thanks to trust built up between the team and the chimps, the team could safely track and video the groups – even during conflict, observing at close quarters what was happening. Crucially, the team was also able to pipette up fresh samples from soil when chimps urinated. The samples revealed that oxytocin levels surge in the mammals whenever the chimps on either side prepared for confrontation, or when either group took the risk of venturing near or into rival-held territories. These surges dwarfed the oxytocin levels seen during activities such as grooming, collaborative hunting for monkey prey or food sharing. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23065 - Posted: 01.07.2017

By Anna Azvolinsky Hummingbirds are efficient hoverers, suspending their bodies midair using rapid forward and backward strokes. Aside from their unique ability to hover, the tiny avians are also the only known birds that can fly in any direction, including sideways. Hummingbird brains appear to be adapted for this flying ability, researchers have now shown. According to a study published today (January 5) in Current Biology, a highly conserved area of the brain—the lentiformis mesencephali (LM), which receives panoramic visual motion information directly from the retina—processes the movement of objects from all directions. In contrast, the LMs of other bird species and all other four-limbed vertebrates studied to date predominantly sense back-to-front motion. While the authors had predicted the neurons of this hummingbird brain region would be tuned to slow motion, they in fact found the opposite: LM neurons were sensitive to quick visual motion, most likely because hummingbirds must process and respond to their environments quickly to avoid collisions, both during hovering and in other modes of flight. “This ancient part of the brain the authors studied has one job: to detect the motion of the image in front of the eyes,” explained Michael Ibbotson, a neuroscientist at the University of Melbourne who penned an accompanying editorial but was not involved in the research. The results of this study suggest that “hummingbirds evolved this area of the brain to have fine motor control to be able to hover and push in every direction possible,” Ibbotson said. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 23064 - Posted: 01.07.2017

By Michael Price As we age, we get progressively better at recognizing and remembering someone’s face, eventually reaching peak proficiency at about 30 years old. A new study suggests that’s because brain tissue in a region dedicated to facial recognition continues to grow and develop throughout childhood and into adulthood, a process known as proliferation. The discovery may help scientists better understand the social evolution of our species, as speedy recollection of faces let our ancestors know at a glance whether to run, woo, or fight. The results are surprising because most scientists have assumed that brain development throughout one’s life depends almost exclusively on “synaptic pruning,” or the weeding out of unnecessary connections between neurons, says Brad Duchaine, a psychologist at Dartmouth College who was not involved with the study. “I expect these findings will lead to much greater interest in the role of proliferation in neural development.” Ten years ago, Kalanit Grill-Spector, a psychologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, first noticed that several parts of the brain’s visual cortex, including a segment known as the fusiform gyrus that’s known to be involved in facial recognition, appeared to develop at different rates after birth. To get more detailed information on how the size of certain brain regions changes over time, she turned to a recently developed brain imaging technology known as quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI). The technique tracks how long it takes for protons, excited by the imaging machine’s strong magnetic field, to calm down. Like a top spinning on a crowded table, these protons will slow down more quickly if they’re surrounded by a lot of molecules—a proxy for measuring volume. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Attention
Link ID: 23063 - Posted: 01.06.2017

By Gary Stix The last six months have witnessed the failure of two drugs in late-stage clinical trials for which the research community had high hopes. In truth, these new reports should not have come as too much of a surprise. Drug after drug continues to show little or no effect in helping the more than 5 million patients in the U.S. diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Scientists who study neurodegenerative diseases have started to call for new approaches that go beyond targeting the amyloid in plaques and the tau in tangles, proteins that have been thought to be culprits in killing brain cells. One organization—The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF)—has for years provided funding to move untried ideas into clinical trials. Howard Fillit, the organization’s executive director, recently gave Scientific American his surprisingly optimistic view of where research and drug development for Alzheimer’s is headed. There have been recent failures of late-stage clinical trials and a figure often cited is that more than 99 percent of Alzheimer's drugs fail. Given all that, what level of confidence do you have for the field moving forward? There's a lot of reason for hope. There are over 130 different clinical trials going on now. I remember the days when there were none. We have had many failures. But I think one of the big advances that is creating hope is that we know how to do clinical trials better now. In a study that is being conducted by Biogen, everyone who was recruited into that study actually had Alzheimer's disease, for the first time. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 23062 - Posted: 01.06.2017

By Virginia Smart, CBC News A controversial Canadian program that gives a regulated, hourly dose of wine to alcoholics to help manage their addiction and keep them safe has caught the attention of health care researchers in Australia. The managed alcohol programs (MAPs) that have sparked the international interest have been giving new hope and new lives to many alcoholics struggling with homelessness and troubles with addiction in communities from British Columbia to Ontario. Kate Dolan, a professor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has visited programs in Ottawa and Vancouver and was impressed. "We used to lead the world in harm reduction services," Dolan tells the fifth estate, but "the alcohol field has not progressed as much as the illicit drug use field." Research led Dolan to Ottawa's MAP. She found MAPs to be cost-effective through reductions in spending on health care and emergency services. Participants also significantly reduce their alcohol consumption and learn a sense of community. The Pour Lucia Ali monitors 'The Pour,' the hourly distribution of a prescribed dose of alcohol dictated by the in-house nurse at the Oaks, a residence for stabilized alcoholics in Ottawa. (CBC) When participants arrive at a MAP, Dolan wrote in her study, "it is all about me, myself and I." But as they progress, they lose the "chip on their shoulder and open up." ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23061 - Posted: 01.06.2017

By Kevin McCarthy There’s a dearth of safety data for melatonin, but there are a number of potential concerns, especially for children. “I think we just don’t know what the potential long-term effects are, particularly when you’re talking about young children,” said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Parents really need to understand that there are potential risks.” The pineal gland in the brain ramps up production of the hormone melatonin in the evening, as light fades, to encourage sleep, and it turns down production in the early morning hours. Synthetic forms of the hormone are also sold as a dietary supplement; because melatonin is found in some foods, like barley, olives and walnuts, it is regulated as a nutritional supplement rather than a drug, as most other hormones are. In adults, studies have found melatonin to be effective for jet lag and some sleep disorders. It is also hugely popular as a sleep aid for children and can be useful for sleep disorders among those with attention-deficit disorders or autism, Dr. Owens said. “I rarely see a family come in with a child with insomnia who hasn’t tried melatonin,” she said. “I would say at least 75 percent of the time when they come in to see us” at the sleep clinic, “they’re either on melatonin or they’ve tried it in the past.” While short-term use of the hormone is generally considered safe, it can have side effects, including headaches, dizziness and daytime grogginess, which could pose a risk for drivers. Melatonin can also interfere with blood pressure, diabetes and blood thinning medications. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23060 - Posted: 01.06.2017