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By Michael Price First piloted as an experiment to reduce dental cavities in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945, fluoridated drinking water has since been hailed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as “one of public health’s greatest success stories.” Today, about two-thirds of people in the United States receive fluoridated tap water, as do many people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Now, a controversial new study links fluoridation to lower IQ in young children, especially boys whose mothers drank fluoridated water while pregnant. Longtime fluoridation critics are lauding the study, but other researchers say it suffers from numerous flaws that undercut its credibility. Either way, “It’s a potential bombshell,” says Philippe Grandjean, an environmental health researcher at Harvard University who wasn’t involved in the work. Fluoride is well-known for protecting teeth against cavities by strengthening tooth enamel. It’s found naturally in low concentrations in both freshwater and seawater, as well as in plant material, especially tea leaves. Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, public health researchers and government officials in cities around the world experimentally added fluoride to public drinking water; they found it reduced the prevalence of cavities by about 60%. Today, fluoridated water flows through the taps of about 5% of the world’s population, including 66% of Americans and 38% of Canadians. Yet skepticism has dogged the practice for as long as it has existed. Some have blamed fluoridated water for a wide range of illnesses including cancer, but most criticism has been dismissed as pseudoscience. Over the years, though, a small number of scientists have published meta-analyses casting doubt on the efficacy of water fluoridation in preventing cavities. More recently, scientists have published small-scale studies that appear to link prenatal fluoride exposure to lower IQ, although dental research groups were quick to challenge them. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Intelligence
Link ID: 26516 - Posted: 08.19.2019

Ashley Yeager Drops of blood, filter paper, bacteria, a bacterial inhibitor, and a baking dish—that’s all it took for microbiologist Robert Guthrie to develop a basic test for phenylketonuria, a genetic metabolic disease that, if left untreated in infants, soon leads to neurological dysfunction and intellectual disability. The test would lay the foundation for screening newborns for diseases. In 1957, Guthrie met Robert Warner, a specialist who diagnosed individuals with mental disabilities. Warner told Guthrie about phenylketonuria (PKU), now known to affect roughly 1 in 10,000 children. The disease makes it impossible to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, so that it builds up to toxic levels in the body and disrupts neuronal communication. Once a child was diagnosed, a strict low-phenylalanine diet could prevent further damage, but Warner had no easy way to measure phenylalanine levels in his PKU patients’ blood to monitor the diet’s effects. He asked Guthrie for help. Guthrie reported back to Warner three days later with a solution. Guthrie knew from past work that the bacterial inhibitor β-2-thienylalanine blocked Bacillus subtilis from flourishing by substituting for phenylalanine in growing peptide chains, resulting in inactive proteins. He also knew that adding phenylalanine to the cell cultures restored normal protein function and spurred the bacterium’s growth. So his solution was simple: prick the skin, collect a few drops of blood on filter paper, and place the filter paper in a baking pan covered in β-2-thienylalanine. Add Bacillus subtilis to the filter paper and heat the pan overnight. If the bacterium grows exponentially, the level of phenylalanine is high. The assay worked well, so Guthrie used it as a model to develop tests for other metabolic diseases. © 1986–2019 The Scientist

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 26515 - Posted: 08.19.2019

Helena Blackstone The first study looking into the use of MDMA to treat alcohol addiction has shown the treatment is safe and early results show encouraging outcomes from the approach, scientists have said. Doctors in Bristol are testing whether a few doses of the drug, in conjunction with psychotherapy, could help patients overcome alcoholism more effectively than conventional treatments. Those who have completed the study have so far reported almost no relapse and no physical or psychological problems. In comparison, eight in 10 alcoholics in England relapse within three years after current treatment approaches. Dr Ben Sessa, an addiction psychiatrist and senior research fellow at Imperial College London, and who led the trial, said: “With the very best that medical science can work with, 80% of people are drinking within three years post alcohol detox.” Eleven people have so far completed the safety and tolerability study, which involves nine months of follow-ups. “We’ve got one person who has completely relapsed, back to previous drinking levels, we have five people who are completely dry and we have four or five who have had one or two drinks but wouldn’t reach the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder,” Sessa said. Most addiction is based on underlying trauma, often from childhood, explained Sessa. “MDMA selectively impairs the fear response,” he said. “It allows recall of painful memories without being overwhelmed. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26514 - Posted: 08.19.2019

Researchers believe that stuttering — a potentially lifelong and debilitating speech disorder — stems from problems with the circuits in the brain that control speech, but precisely how and where these problems occur is unknown. Using a mouse model of stuttering, scientists report that a loss of cells in the brain called astrocytes are associated with stuttering. The mice had been engineered with a human gene mutation previously linked to stuttering. The study (link is external), which appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers insights into the neurological deficits associated with stuttering. The loss of astrocytes, a supporting cell in the brain, was most prominent in the corpus callosum, a part of the brain that bridges the two hemispheres. Previous imaging studies have identified differences in the brains of people who stutter compared to those who do not. Furthermore, some of these studies in people have revealed structural and functional problems in the same brain region as the new mouse study. The study was led by Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., of the Section on Genetics of Communication Disorders, at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and from NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and National Institute of Mental Health collaborated on the research. “The identification of genetic, molecular, and cellular changes that underlie stuttering has led us to understand persistent stuttering as a brain disorder,” said Andrew Griffith, M.D., Ph.D., NIDCD scientific director. “Perhaps even more importantly, pinpointing the brain region and cells that are involved opens opportunities for novel interventions for stuttering — and possibly other speech disorders.”

Keyword: Language; Glia
Link ID: 26513 - Posted: 08.19.2019

Laura Sanders Seconds before a memory pops up, certain nerve cells jolt into collective action. The discovery of this signal, described in the Aug. 16 Science, sheds light on the mysterious brain processes that store and recall information. Electrodes implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients picked up neural signals in the hippocampus, a key memory center, while the patients were shown images of familiar people and places, including former President Barack Obama and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. As the participants took in this new information, electrodes detected a kind of brain activity called sharp-wave ripples, created by the coordinated activity of many nerve cells in the hippocampus. Later blindfolded, the patients were asked to remember the pictures. One to two seconds before the participants began describing each picture, researchers noticed an uptick in sharp-wave ripples, echoing the ripples detected when the subjects had first seen the images. That echo suggests that these ripples are important for learning new information and for recalling it later, Yitzhak Norman of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues write in the study. Earlier studies suggested that these ripples in the hippocampus were important for forming memories. But it wasn’t clear if the ripples also had a role in bringing memories to mind. In another recent study, scientists also linked synchronized ripples in two parts of the brain to better memories of word pairs (SN Online: 3/5/19). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 26512 - Posted: 08.19.2019

John Pappas A confidential government document containing evidence so critical it had the potential to change the course of an American tragedy was kept in the dark for more than a decade. The document, known as a “prosecution memo,” details how government lawyers believed that Purdue Pharma, the maker of the powerful opioid, OxyContin, knew early on that the drug was fueling a rise in abuse and addiction. They also gathered evidence indicating that the company’s executives had misled the public and Congress. “The Weekly” shines a light on that 2006 Justice Department memo and its consequences for today’s wave of lawsuits against opioid makers and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma. We go with Barry Meier, the New York Times reporter who for two decades has chronicled how opioid abuse has ravaged America, as he travels back to where the crisis began. Barry Meier covered business, public policy, health and safety for nearly 30 years for The New York Times. He began covering the marketing of the painkiller OxyContin and the resulting epidemic of opioid addiction as early as 2001. He is also the author of “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic,” first published in 2003 and recently reissued. The Confidential Memo Revealed Prosecutors cited evidence in their 2006 memo that Sackler family members who own Purdue were sent reports about problems with the company’s drugs. But that evidence never came to light because the recommended felony charges against Purdue executives never went forward. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26511 - Posted: 08.17.2019

By John Horgan At the beginning of my book Mind-Body Problems, I describe one of my earliest childhood memories: I am walking near a river on a hot summer day. My left hand grips a fishing rod, my right a can of worms. One friend walks in front of me, another behind. We’re headed to a spot on the river where we can catch perch, bullheads and large-mouth bass. Weeds bordering the path block my view of the river, but I can smell its dank breath and feel its chill on my skin. The seething of cicadas builds to a crescendo. I stop short. I’m me, I say. My friends don’t react, so I say, louder, I’m me. The friend before me glances over his shoulder and keeps walking, the friend behind pushes me. I resume walking, still thinking, I’m me, I’m me. I feel lonely, scared, exhilarated, bewildered. Advertisement That moment was when I first became self-conscious, aware of myself as something weird, distinct from the rest of the world, demanding explanation. Or so I came to believe when I recalled the incident in subsequent decades. I never really talked about it, because it was hard to describe. It meant a lot to me, but I doubted it would mean much to anyone else. Then I learned that others have had similar experiences. One is Rebecca Goldstein, the philosopher and novelist, whom I profiled in Mind-Body Problems. Before interviewing Goldstein, I read her novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, and I came upon a passage in which the hero, Cass, a psychologist, recalls a recurrent “metaphysical seizure” or “vertigo” that struck him in childhood. Lying in bed, he was overcome by the improbability that he was just himself and no one else. “The more he tried to get a fix on the fact of being Cass here,” Goldstein writes, “the more the whole idea of it just got away from him.” Even as an adult, Cass kept asking himself, “How can it be that, of all things, one is this thing, so that one can say, astonishingly, ‘Here I am’”? © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26510 - Posted: 08.17.2019

Laura Sanders Alzheimer’s disease destroys command centers in the brain that keep people awake. That finding could explain why the disease often brings daytime drowsiness. Sleep problems can precede dementias, including Alzheimer’s, sometimes by decades. But the new result, described online August 12 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, suggests that disordered sleeping isn’t just an early harbinger of Alzheimer’s. Instead, sleep trouble is “part of the disease,” says Lea Grinberg, a neuropathologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Grinberg and colleagues focused on the brain stem and a structure perched above it called the hypothalamus. Together, these parts of the nervous system oversee crucial jobs such as keeping people awake and paying attention. Though important, the brain stem and its neighbors have been largely overlooked in studies of dementia, Grinberg says. In particular, the researchers searched for evidence of tau, a protein that can form tangles inside nerve cells, in postmortem brains of people who died with Alzheimer’s disease. Three small regions of the hypothalamus and brain stem, all of which usually contain nerve cells that keep people awake during the day, were packed with tau, the team found. And two of the three areas had lost over 70 percent of their nerve cells, or neurons. These areas “are hit hard, and they are hit by tau,” Grinberg says. That destruction could be part of the reason people with Alzheimer’s disease often feel tired during the day, even if they slept the night before. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 26509 - Posted: 08.17.2019

By John Williams The first, startling epigraph in Nicci Gerrard’s new book, “The Last Ocean,” comes from Emily Dickinson: “Abyss has no Biographer.” Gerrard sets out to tell the story of dementia, a disease that can appear to consume those it afflicts. After her father, John, died in 2014, the author — who writes best-selling thrillers with her husband under the name Nicci French — embarked on learning more about the disease as both a journalist and an activist. The result is a tender, inquisitive tour of a subject that can be raw and painful. Below, Gerrard talks about loss, art that punches you in the solar plexus and the experience of writing a book that doesn’t answer questions. When did you first get the idea to write this book? I first had the idea when my father, who’d been living with dementia for over 10 years, went into hospital in February 2014. After four weeks without anyone to see him — we were allowed in for very limited times and then not at all, because of a norovirus outbreak — I barely recognized him. I will, for the rest of my life, feel terribly that I didn’t get him out earlier. Then he lived at home for nine months. He had become skeletal, immobile, inarticulate, and in a way he felt utterly lost, like a ghost in our lives and in his own life. He would lay downstairs in a hospital bed, looking outside at the garden he used to love. There was this clear sense that he’d already lost everything he had, everything he was, all his capacity, there was nothing left — and yet somehow that he didn’t lose himself. In the book I say that if I were religious, I would call that self he retained his soul. Something very indelible remained. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 26508 - Posted: 08.17.2019

Nicola Davis A new organ involved in the sensation of pain has been discovered by scientists, raising hopes that it could lead to the development of new painkilling drugs. Researchers say they have discovered that the special cells that surround the pain-sensing nerve cells that extend into the outer layer of skin appear to be involved in sensing pain – a discovery that points to a new organ behind the feeling of “ouch!”. The scientists say the finding offers new insight into pain and could help answer longstanding conundrums. “The major question for us now is whether these cells are actually the cause for certain kinds of chronic pain disorders,” Prof Patrik Ernfors, a co-author of the research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the Guardian. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers reveal how they examined the nature of cells in the skin that, they say, have largely been overlooked. These are a type of Schwann cell, which wrap around and engulf nerve cells and help to keep them alive. The study has revealed these Schwann cells have an octopus-like shape. After examining tissues, the team found the body of the cells sits below the outer layer of the skin, but that the cells have long extensions that wrap around the ends of pain-sensing nerve cells that extend up into the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. The scientists were surprised at the findings because it has long been believed that the endings of nerve cells in the epidermis were bare or unwrapped. “In the pain field, we talk about free nerve endings that are responsible for pain sensation. But actually they are not free,” Ernfors said. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Glia
Link ID: 26507 - Posted: 08.16.2019

Statistics Canada says Canadian men are almost twice as likely to use cannabis as women. New data from the National Cannabis Survey today shows 16 per cent of Canadians over 15 years old report using pot in April, May or June. That's down slightly from 17.5 per cent in the first three months of the year. Almost five million Canadians consumed cannabis in some form during the three month period. One quarter of men, and 16 per cent of women, reported they plan to consume it in the next three months. The survey suggests men are more likely to use cannabis daily or weekly than women, and are also more likely to use it for non-medicinal purposes. About four in 10 marijuana users say they bought cannabis illegally. Smoking the drug remains the most common way of consuming it, with 68 per cent of men and 62 per cent of women consumers choosing this method. At 14 per cent, women were almost three times more likely than men (five per cent) to have consumed cannabis through "other methods," including edible and topical variants. Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada last October and Statistics Canada is tracking consumption habits every three months. ©2019 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 26506 - Posted: 08.16.2019

By Dylan Loeb McClain Kary B. Mullis, a biochemist who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering a way to analyze DNA easily and cheaply and thus pave the way for major advances in medical diagnostics, molecular biology and forensic science, died on Aug. 7 at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 74. The cause was heart and respiratory failure brought on by pneumonia, his wife, Nancy Cosgrove Mullis, said. The process for analyzing DNA that Dr. Mullis invented is called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. It replicates a single strand of DNA millions of times, enabling scientists to pinpoint a segment of the strand and amplify it for identification. Polymerase, an enzyme that synthesizes polymers and nucleic acids, is essential in creating DNA and RNA, the molecules that are responsible for coding DNA. Before PCR, amplifying DNA took weeks, because it had to be generated in bacteria. Once Dr. Mullis’s process was perfected, it took only hours, opening up a world of possibilities. We’ll bring you stories that capture the wonders of the human body, nature and the cosmos. Today, his method is used to detect genetic mutations that can lead to diagnoses of diseases, like sickle cell anemia; analyze ancient sources of DNA, like bones; assist in obtaining crime scene evidence; and determine paternity. It was used as well to decode and map the entire human DNA as part of the Human Genome Project, the landmark international research effort that ran from 1990 to 2003. As he told the story in his Nobel lecture, Dr. Mullis found his inspiration one night in 1983 while driving to his cabin in Mendocino, Calif. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 26505 - Posted: 08.16.2019

By Bret Stetka Among the human body’s many maladies, few have stumped medical researchers like those that decimate the brain. After decades of effort, effectively treating—let alone curing—neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer's disease has been a source of frustration for many, as old theories are questioned and clinical trials fail. Basic scientists have achieved some progress. Over the past few decades, they have made serious headway in identifying single inherited genes responsible for genetic forms of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s—and also the molecular and neural mechanisms behind nongenetic, or sporadic, forms of brain maladies. Yet translating these findings into working therapies has proved challenging. With genetic engineering technologies, such as CRISPR, that literally rewrite our DNA still a ways away from routine use, a number of clinical researchers have turned to a more immediate genome-based approach to treat disorders of the brain: manipulating RNA to modify levels of proteins associated with disease. DNA provides our genetic code, with its sister molecule RNA translating that code into the proteins that run our brains and myriad bodily functions. Scientists can now use molecules called antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) to modify this process by binding to RNA and altering translation. ASOs are DNA-like molecules that greatly resemble the DNA that produced the RNA they correspond to in the first place. Depending on where they are designed to bind, these antisense molecules can prevent an RNA from being translated into a protein, which reduces levels of that protein in the body or brain. Alternatively, these same DNA-like molecules can be crafted to interfere with RNA machinery that normally inhibits or slows translation. In this case, more protein is made. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers; ALS-Lou Gehrig's Disease
Link ID: 26504 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Kate Murphy Maybe it was because when the waiter asked, “Still or sparkling?” you chose sparkling. It could have also been that you were ravenous and ate a little too much. Or, possibly, it was your ex, who happened to be dining at the same restaurant and stood a little too long over your table making awkward small talk. All of these things, hic, might cause spasms, hic, in your diaphragm, hic. Referred to in the medical literature as singultus (from the Latin singult, which means gasp or sob), hiccups are familiar to anyone who has ever taken a breath. In fact, you begin to hiccup while still in the womb. Most people hiccup the most during childhood, with the bouts becoming less frequent over time, but even in adulthood, hiccups are still a common, and annoying, occurrence. Just as we all have our own particular way of sneezing, we all have a unique way of hiccuping that can range from four to 60 hiccups per minute. Most hiccups are benign and last only a few minutes or hours. But sometimes hiccups are indicative of a more serious health issue, particularly when they recur or don’t go away for days, weeks or years. Beyond being embarrassing, the muscle contractions can be physically exhausting. They can interrupt sleep and make it hard to eat. Approximately 4,000 people in the United States are admitted to the hospital every year for hiccups. The patient with the longest recorded case, according to Guinness World Records, was Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa, who hiccuped for 68 years straight. He claimed it started while attempting to weigh a hog before slaughtering it. Doctors say there are as many causes for hiccups as there are crazy remedies, including tugging on your tongue, standing on your head and swallowing granulated sugar. Some actually work. Others are more likely just entertainment for friends and family who watch while you try to cure yourself. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 26503 - Posted: 08.15.2019

Etelka Lehoczky Like any good story about a scientific discovery, Walter A. Brown's account of the history of lithium features plenty of improvisation, conjecture and straight-up kismet. Unlike many such stories, though, it also features a fair share of personal bias, senseless puttering and random speculation — on part of these scientific researchers. Brown, a practicing psychiatrist and university professor of more than 40 years, seems to have been drawn to write Lithium: A Doctor, A Drug and a Breakthrough as much because of lithium's fluky history and overlooked importance (for many years, he argues, it was "the Cinderella of psychiatric drugs") as by the profound impact it's had on countless sufferers of bipolar disorder and depression. Lithium is a homage, not just to a drug, but to the renegade side of science. Its heroes are researchers scattered around the globe, short on funding and frequently unaware of each other's work, without whom a commonly available substance would never have been recognized as a treatment for one of the most baffling psychiatric illnesses. By celebrating these men, Brown hopes to do a lot more than simply raise awareness about an underappreciated substance. He aims to demolish what remains of the myth that scientific progress is driven by rigorous dispassion. The story of lithium's use in medicine is certainly colorful, as is the history of the illness it's become known for. Brown doesn't stint on either tale. He goes all the way back to the first century to find a would-be description of manic depression by the Greek doctor Aretaeus of Cappadocia. These patients, Aretaeus wrote, "'laugh, play, dance night and day, and sometimes go openly to the market crowned, as if victors in some contest of skill,'" only to become "'torpid, dull and sorrowful.'" © 2019 npr

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 26502 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Sheila Kaplan Nearly three dozen young people have been hospitalized around the country in recent weeks for severe respiratory problems after vaping either nicotine or marijuana, stumping doctors treating them. The Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin public health departments are investigating these cases and at least 20 additional emergency admissions that doctors suspect are related to vaping some substance, possibly even illegal street drugs or adulterated liquids laced with T.H.C., the ingredient that produces marijuana’s high. There are also cases in California, which appear to be associated with vaping cannabis or cannabidiol oil. Most of the patients were having difficulty breathing when they arrived at the hospital. Some patients also reported chest pain, vomiting and other ailments. The cases have ranged in severity, with some patients suffering severe lung damage that required weeks of treatment in the intensive care units. Each of the patients reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices in the weeks leading up to the emergency. But officials are not yet clear whether vaping caused the injuries, and if so, what ingredient in the e-cigarette or vaping systems was responsible. “We know the children have been injured. We don’t yet know the causative agent,” said Dr. David D. Gummin, medical director of the Wisconsin Poison Center, and professor and chief of medical toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “We have no leads pointing to a specific substance other than those that are associated with smoking or vaping.” Initially, Dr. Gummin said, doctors suspected that the patients were suffering from an infectious disease. But the patients’ failure to respond to antibiotics led the doctors to believe they had been harmed by a toxic substance. A common practice among their patients was vaping. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26501 - Posted: 08.15.2019

Patti Neighmond Most children enrolled in Medicaid who get a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder don't get timely or appropriate treatment afterward. That's the conclusion of a report published Thursday by a federal watchdog agency, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General. "Nationwide, there were 500,000 Medicaid-enrolled children newly prescribed an ADHD medication who did not receive any timely follow-up care," says Brian Whitley, a regional inspector general with OIG. The report analyzed Medicaid claims data from 2014 and 2015. Those kids didn't see a health care provider regarding their ADHD within a month of being prescribed the medication, though pediatric guidelines recommend that, he says. And one in five of those children didn't get the two additional check-ins with a doctor they should get within a year. "That's a long time to be on powerful medications without a practitioner checking for side effects or to see how well the medication is working," Whitley says. Additionally, according to the OIG report, "Nearly half of Medicaid-enrolled children who were newly prescribed an ADHD medication did not receive behavioral therapy," though that, too, is recommended by pediatricians. Elizabeth Cavey, who lives with her family in Arlington, Va., knows just how important it is to get a child with ADHD accurately diagnosed and treated. Kindergarten, Cavey says, was a disaster for her daughter. "She was constantly being reprimanded and forced to sit still," Cavey recalls. "And she's a bright child, but she kept falling further and further behind in learning letters and language, because she could not concentrate." © 2019 npr

Keyword: ADHD; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26500 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Joseph D. Stern, M.D. My patient had arrived from another hospital in the middle of the night. He was a wiry older man, restless but alert. He had a blood clot compressing the dominant hemisphere of his brain. He did not speak or move the right side of his body but fidgeted with his left hand and leg: pulling at his IV; removing his oxygen tubing and the ECG contacts pasted to his chest. He did not seem to understand what was happening and could neither assent to nor refuse the surgery I was recommending. Yet just hours earlier, he had been his normal self. His wife, whom I later learned was developing dementia, accompanied him in the ambulance. She was frail, thin and appeared disheveled and confused. She knew little about his medications and medical problems and didn’t know if he was on blood thinners. Still, given his rapid decline over a few hours, I took him to surgery. The craniotomy went well and he seemed to recover smoothly. But my patient made little improvement over the next two days. A repeat CT scan showed that the blood I had removed had re-accumulated. This is a known complication of a craniotomy for subdural hematoma. Still, it felt like a personal failure. The easiest thing to do would have been to take my patient back to surgery. But was it the right thing to do? Two weeks earlier I had attended a conference on palliative care held by the Archdiocese of Boston. Dr. Mary Buss, a hematologist/oncologist and chief of palliative care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, related some recent research on moral distress in neurosurgery she had conducted with Dr. Stephen Miranda. Dr. Miranda, who was then a medical student and is now a neurosurgical resident at the University of Pennsylvania, interviewed neurosurgery residents about the decision to operate on an elderly patient with early dementia and on blood thinners with a subdural hematoma and a poor neurological exam. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Stroke
Link ID: 26499 - Posted: 08.15.2019

Anna Moore On a lazy Sunday morning in May last year, Isobel Lloyd was at her boyfriend’s house, having coffee with his mum. The conversation had worked around to Lloyd’s grandma – her mother’s mother – who’d died in her 50s, when Lloyd was very young. Lloyd’s only memories of her had been hospice visits where her grandma lay bedbound, unable to talk or swallow, with no control over how her body moved. Lloyd had forgotten the name of her grandma’s disease, hadn’t thought about it in years. Like most 20-year-olds, she was future-focused – a student from Yorkshire, keen on her studies, in love with her boyfriend of four years. Sitting in his family kitchen, they began reeling off degenerative diseases. Motor neurone. Multiple sclerosis. Parkinson’s. Alzheimer’s. Then finally Huntington’s disease (HD). In a flash of recognition, Lloyd knew that was the one her grandma had. “It just clicked,” she says. “I Googled it on my phone – and that’s when I read that it was genetic. My mum had a 50% risk of getting it – and if she did, I had a 50% risk, too.” She didn’t tell her boyfriend’s mother what she’d just learned, “But I felt the colour rush out of my face,” says Lloyd, an only child. “I thought, ‘No way, that can’t be true.’ I was 20 years old and no one had told me?” In fact, that’s not so unusual. Secrecy, evasion and lies are frequent features for families grappling with genetic disease. Whether it’s HD, a breast cancer gene, inheritable bowel cancer, early-onset Alzheimer’s, it’s not uncommon for younger generations to stumble upon their inheritance by noticing patterns, asking questions. By then, they’re faced not just with their frightening at-risk status, but also anger at all those years in the dark. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Huntingtons; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 26498 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Tiffany Hsu Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., were concerned when a young man contacted their department last year complaining of a heart-pounding, hallucinogenic high he had neither expected nor wanted to have. The team, led by the forensic toxicologist Michelle R. Peace, had published a study about mysterious ingredients in vaping liquids. That’s how the man, a graduate student Dr. Peace declined to name, knew to tell it about his experience. He said he had vaped a liquid, from a company called Diamond CBD, that contained CBD, or cannabidiol. A compound reputed to have soothing properties, CBD has been marketed by the fast-growing cannabis industry as an ingredient in sleeping masks, kombucha, Carl’s Jr. burgers and Martha Stewart-backed dog treats. It is not supposed to cause a psychoactive experience. Dr. Peace decided to run some tests of Diamond CBD vaping liquids, some from the graduate student and some bought from the manufacturer. In four of nine samples, all marketed on the company’s website as 100 percent natural, her lab discovered a synthetic compound, 5F-ADB. That ingredient has been linked by the Drug Enforcement Administration to anxiety, convulsions, psychosis, hospitalization and death. Diamond CBD has often promoted its products as health aids meant to “help your body to heal and recover” and “to make you feel the best version of yourself.” The company’s parent, PotNetwork Holdings, said in a statement that independent tests did not show “any unnatural or improper derivative.” The company said it planned to run more tests on its products and materials and would issue a recall if it found any problems. The efforts of cannabis companies to go mainstream could be hampered by CBD advertising that depends on misleading or unproven claims, entrepreneurs and researchers said. Dr. Peace compared the marketing efforts of some companies to snake-oil scams in the 1800s, “when guys in wagons were selling sham tinctures in glass bottles.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 26497 - Posted: 08.14.2019