Chapter 15. Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language

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Laura Sanders Around the six-month mark, babies start to get really fun. They’re not walking or talking, but they are probably babbling, grabbing and gumming, and teaching us about their likes and dislikes. I remember this as the time when my girls’ personalities really started making themselves known, which, really, is one of the best parts of raising a kid. After months of staring at those beautiful, bald heads, you start to get a glimpse of what’s going on inside them. When it comes to learning language, it turns out that a lot has already happened inside those baby domes by age 6 months. A new study finds that babies this age understand quite a bit about words — in particular, the relationships between nouns. Work in toddlers, and even adults, reveals that people can struggle with word meanings under difficult circumstances. We might briefly falter with “shoe” when an image of a shoe is shown next to a boot, for instance, but not when the shoe appears next to a hat. But researchers wanted to know how early these sorts of word relationships form. Psychologists Elika Bergelson of Duke University and Richard Aslin, formerly of the University of Rochester in New York and now at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Conn., put 51 6-month-olds to a similar test. Outfitted with eye-tracking gear, the babies sat on a parent’s lap and looked at a video screen that showed pairs of common objects. Sometimes the images were closely related: mouth and nose, for instance, or bottle and spoon. Other pairs were unrelated: blanket and dog, or juice and car. © Society for Science and the Public

Keyword: Language; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24343 - Posted: 11.21.2017

In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels. While the animals’ brains experience dramatically reduced blood flow during hibernation, just like human patients after a certain type of stroke, the squirrels emerge from their extended naps suffering no ill effects. Now, a team of NIH-funded scientists has identified a potential drug that could grant the same resilience to the brains of ischemic stroke patients by mimicking the cellular changes that protect the brains of those animals. The study was published in The FASEB Journal, the official journal of the Foundation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “For decades scientists have been searching for an effective brain-protecting stroke therapy to no avail. If the compound identified in this study successfully reduces tissue death and improves recovery in further experiments, it could lead to new approaches for preserving brain cells after an ischemic stroke,” said Francesca Bosetti, Ph.D., Pharm.D., program director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot cuts off blood flow to part of the brain, depriving those cells of oxygen and nutrients like the blood sugar glucose that they need to survive. Nearly 800,000 Americans experience a stroke every year and 87 percent of those are ischemic strokes. Currently, the only way to minimize stroke-induced cell death is to remove the clot as soon as possible. A treatment to help brain cells survive a stroke-induced lack of oxygen and glucose could dramatically improve patient outcomes, but no such neuroprotective agents for stroke patients exist.

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 24339 - Posted: 11.20.2017

Richard Gonzales The Boston researcher who examined the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez says it showed the most damage her team had seen in an athlete so young. Hernandez, whose on-field performance for the New England Patriots earned him a $40 million contract in 2012, hanged himself in a prison cell earlier this year while serving a life sentence for murder. He was 27 years old. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who directs research of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, at Boston University, said her research team found Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE and that they had never seen such severe damage in a brain younger than 46 years old. McKee announced her findings at medical conference on Thursday in Boston where she spoke publicly for the first time. Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University talks about the severe degenerative brain disease suffered by former NFL star Aaron Hernandez. Her research team examined his brain after Hernandez died from suicide in prison. Among the lingering questions in the sports world and among brain researchers is, why did a young man with wealth, fame and a potentially bright athletic career ahead of him kill a friend and wind up in prison? © 2017 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24313 - Posted: 11.10.2017

Jo Marchant Listen in: the words people say may reveal the body's biological response to threat. Subtleties in the language people use may reveal physiological stress. Psychologists found that tracking certain words used by volunteers in randomly collected audio clips reflected stress-related changes in their gene expression. The speech patterns predicted those physiological changes more accurately than speakers’ own ratings of their stress levels. The research, which is published on 6 November in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 suggests that changes in language may track the biological effects of stress better than how we consciously feel. It’s a new approach to studying stress, says David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one that “holds tremendous promise” for understanding how psychological adversity affects physical health. Adverse life circumstances — such as poverty, trauma or social isolation — can have devastating effects on health, increasing the risk of a variety of chronic disorders ranging from heart disease to dementia. Researchers trying to pin down the biological mechanisms involved have found that people who experience these circumstances also undergo broad changes in gene expression in the cells of their immune system. Genes involved in inflammation become more active, for example, and antiviral genes are turned down. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Stress; Language
Link ID: 24302 - Posted: 11.07.2017

By Rachel Hoge I was waiting in line at my bank’s drive-up service, hoping to make a quick withdrawal. I debated my options: two vacant service lines and one busy one for the ATM. The decision was easy: Wait in the line and deal with a machine. I have a speech disability — a stutter — and interactions with strangers have the potential to be, at the very least, extremely awkward; at worst, I have been mocked, insulted, misjudged or refused service. I avoid interacting with new people, fearful of their judgment. Using the ATM offered me more than just convenience. But the ATM, I soon discovered, was going down for maintenance. I could either leave, returning on a day when the machine was back in service, or speak with a bank teller. Once again, I debated my options. I needed the cash and I was feeling optimistic, so I pulled into the service line. I quickly rehearsed all acceptable variations of what I had to say: I need to withdraw some money from my checking account. Or maybe, to use fewer words: Could I have a withdrawal slip? Or straight to the point: Withdraw, please. Rachel Hoge would rather be treated with patience than with pity. (Katy Nash) I pulled my car forward. Glancing at the teller, I took a deep breath and managed to blurt out: “Can I ppppplease make a wi-wi-with-with-withdrawal?” The teller smiled on the other side of the glass. “Sure,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she had noticed my stutter or simply believed my repetitions (rep-rep-repetitions) and prolongations (ppppprolongations) were just indications of being tongue-tied rather than manifestations of a persistent stutter. I eased back in my seat, trying to relax. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 24296 - Posted: 11.06.2017

/ By Elizabeth Svoboda When Gerald Shea was 6 years old, a bout of scarlet fever left him partially deaf, though he was not formally diagnosed until turning 34. His disability left him in a liminal space between silence and sound; he grew used to the fuzzed edges of words, the strain of parsing a language that no longer felt fully native. Years ago, he began combing historical records on deafness to lend context to his own experience. But his research turned up something unexpected: a centuries-long procession of leaders and educators who stifled the deaf by forcing them to conform to the ways of the hearing. That is the driving impetus behind “The Language of Light,” Shea’s history of deaf people’s ongoing quest to learn and communicate in signed languages. “Theirs is not an unplanned but a natural, visual poetry, at once both the speech and the music of the Deaf,” he writes. (He capitalizes the word to refer to people who consider themselves part of the deaf culture and community.) In conveying the unique cadence of this silent music — its intricate grammatical structure, its power to express an infinite array of ideas — Shea underscores the tragedy of its suppression. From the outset, he confronts us with a rogues’ gallery of those who suppressed it. During the Middle Ages, self-appointed therapists crammed hot coals into the mouths of deaf people, pierced their eardrums, and drilled holes into their skulls, all in a vain effort to force them to speak. In what was at the time Holland, Johann Conrad Amman moved the lips of his deaf charges into the shapes needed to make certain sounds, but the effort was largely fruitless because they could not hear the sounds they were making. The “silent voices” of Shea’s title has a double resonance: Not only did many deaf people remain literally mute from their disability; their potential to express their ideas fully through sign language went untapped. Copyright 2017 Undark

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 24283 - Posted: 11.03.2017

Rachael Lallensack It takes a village to teach a bat how to communicate. Baby Egyptian fruit bats learn calls from their mothers, but research now shows that they can learn new dialects, or the pitch of their vocalizations, from the colony members around them. Learning to communicate by repeating the noises that others make is something only a few mammal groups — including humans, whales and dolphins — are known to do. Researchers call this vocal learning, and it's something that they're starting to study in bats. Findings published on 31 October in PLOS Biology1 show that bats can also pick things up from the group around them, a process that the authors dub crowd vocal learning. Bats are becoming the best organism to use in studies of how mammals learn to vocalize, because they’re more easily manipulated in the lab than whales or dolphins. The latest research underscores their importance, says neuroscientist Michael Yartsev of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved with the work. Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) are highly social and live in colonies with dozens to thousands of other bats. To see how the pups learn dialects, researchers caught 15 pregnant Egyptian fruit bats and took them into the lab. To control for potential genetic effects, they ensured that the mothers weren't closely related. The team then split the mothers into three groups of five and put each group into one of three chambers, where the mothers gave birth to their young. The scientists used recordings of wild Egyptian fruit bat colonies that were low in frequency, high or a mix of both frequencies, and then piped one pitch into each chamber. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 24275 - Posted: 11.01.2017

Nick Fraser I was just finishing a talk about documentaries I was giving in Soho. I’d been asked a question about why so many films are seriously depressing. I remember that I talked about the great neurosurgeon Henry Marsh and the documentary about him, The English Surgeon. The film followed him to Ukraine as he helped and taught the local surgeons, who often resorted to using rusty domestic power tools to work on their patients’ skulls. I’d talked about him for some time, enthusiastically explaining how awed Henry said he felt every time he opened a patient’s head, and about how beautiful the brain is. I wanted to say more – but suddenly I sat down, and couldn’t say or think anything. Something had happened to me. I had gone into a different world of not making sense. I was taken by ambulance to University College hospital and given a head CT scan. There was a blood clot on my brain. I’d had a stroke, a brain attack. Time is all-important to stroke patients, and fortunately I was within the time frame to be given serious clot-busting drugs. There was something else they could do, the doctor said, a procedure called a thrombectomy. UCH offered the procedure up until 6pm. The time was then around 8pm, but the doctor heroically fought through NHS protocols and secured me a trip to St George’s hospital in south-west London, the only UK location open 24/7 for thrombectomies. I was lucky. I remember meeting the neuro-radiologist who, after putting me under mild sedation, performed the extraordinary procedure that involved sending a very thin wire from my groin to my brain, and removing one small clot and one larger one from the left side of my brain. I could understand the details of the operation, but I couldn’t say anything. I wondered if I would be all right. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited o

Keyword: Stroke; Language
Link ID: 24263 - Posted: 10.30.2017

By Andy Coghlan For the first time, female dark-eyed juncos have been found to burst into song in the wild. Although many female tropical birds sing, singing females are rare among northern, temperate songbirds. However, the behaviour is now becoming more common, and climate change may mean it becomes even more widespread. Dustin Reichard of Ohio Wesleyan University knew that female dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) sometimes sang in captivity, but only after being injected with testosterone. To find out if they sang in the wild, he and his colleagues goaded them by placing a live, caged female in their territories. The researchers also played recordings of a soft trill that females make when they are receptive to mating. In all, 17 females, along with 25 males, interacted with the caged females. Half the females dived and lunged at them, and a minority also performed aggressive tail-spreads not normally seen in females. Three of the females sang songs similar to those of males. “The context in which the songs were observed – responding to a female intruder – suggests these songs have an aggressive, territorial function,” says Reichard. “But we can’t say whether female song is specific to female intruders without also measuring their response to male intruders.” The females also reacted badly to attempts by males to woo the intruder female, both with song and other courtship behaviours such as puffing up their feathers and spreading their tails. Dark-eyed juncos are monogamous, and the females sought to keep their mates faithful by aggressively chasing them away from the rival female. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24255 - Posted: 10.28.2017

By JANE E. BRODY I will start this column with its conclusion: Riding a bicycle without wearing a properly fitted helmet is simply stupid. Anyone who does so is tempting fate, risking a potentially life-changing disaster. And that goes for all users of bike-share programs, like New York’s Citi Bike, who think nothing of pulling a bike from its station and cycling helmetless on streets, with and without bike lanes, among often reckless traffic on foot and wheels. Even a careful cyclist is likely to crash about once every 4,500 miles and, based on personal observation, many city cyclists are anything but careful. Although reliable details are lacking on bike share accidents in New York or elsewhere, one shattering statistic reported by New York City for cyclists in general stands out: 97 percent of cycling deaths and 87 percent of serious injuries occurred to people who were not wearing helmets. Head injuries account for three-fourths of the nearly 700-plus bicycle deaths that occur each year nationwide, and helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of these injuries in two-thirds of cases, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va. This protection holds even in crashes with motor vehicles, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle reported as long ago as 2000, a statistic verified many times since. I’ve been a cyclist for more than 70 years, most of them before anyone thought about wearing a helmet (protective helmets for recreational cyclists didn’t even exist until 1975). Although I’ve owned many helmets in the last four decades, I admit to occasionally not wearing one to avoid “helmet hair” before an evening out. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24230 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By Aylin Woodward Not in my backyard. Territorial songbirds in New Zealand reacted more aggressively towards males encroaching on their territory if those rivals sang more complicated songs. The tui birds perceived these snappy singers as greater territorial threats than their simpler singing counterparts. Birdsong has two main functions: defending a territory and attracting a mate, says Samuel Hill at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. For tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), territory defence is a key concern. “There are flowering and fruiting trees year round in New Zealand, so the tui always have resources to defend,” says Hill. This explains why “they natter all year round”. Warbling away takes lots of energy, so males may be showing off their physical endurance to females. Long and complicated songs may also be a sign of skill, as to sing them birds must use superfast vocal muscles to control rapid acoustic changes. In other songbirds, like zebra finches, females prefer males that sing harder songs. This hasn’t been tested in tui, but Hill says the complexity of a male’s song is probably a proxy for more relevant measures of his quality, like body condition and cognitive ability. If that is so, Hill reasoned, breeding male tui would take umbrage at potential rivals singing at the edge of their territory, particularly if their songs were complex and they were therefore strong competitors. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24227 - Posted: 10.21.2017

Aimee Cunningham To guard against the dangers of concussions, by 2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had enacted laws to protect young athletes. More than 2½ years after these laws went on the books, repeat concussions began to decline among high school athletes, researchers report online October 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers reviewed concussion data from 2005 to 2016 collected in an online system for sports injuries from a nationally representative sample of U.S. high schools. An estimated nearly 2.7 million reported concussions occurred during that time — an annual average of 39.8 concussions per 100,000 times a player hit the field for practice or games — among athletes in nine sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball or wrestling for boys, and basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball for girls. Overall, the rate of new and recurrent concussions was climbing before the implementation of traumatic brain injury laws and continued to rise immediately after. But then, 2.6 years after the laws went into effect, the rate of recurrent concussions dropped roughly 10 percent, the authors say. New concussions showed a slight downturn beginning 3.8 years post-law. Most of the new laws require education on symptoms and signs of concussions for athletes, coaches and parents. So greater awareness of symptoms rather than an actual uptick in injuries may be behind the initial increase in reported concussions in the post-statute period. And the drop in recurrent concussions may be due to the laws’ provisions that take athletes off the field after a concussion and keep them off until approved by a medical provider. While the trends suggest that laws are having an impact, the researchers say, measures that focus on preventing concussions — not only taking steps after they happen — are needed. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24220 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Here’s yet another reason to protect young athletes from head trauma: A large-scale new study found that concussions in adolescents can increase the risk of later developing multiple sclerosis. The risk of multiple sclerosis, or M.S., an autoimmune nervous system disorder with an unknown cause, was especially high if there were more than one head injury. The overall chances that a young athlete who has had one or more head injuries will develop multiple sclerosis still remain low, the study’s authors point out. But the risk is significantly higher than if a young person never experiences a serious blow to the head. The drumbeat of worrying news about concussions and their consequences has been rising in recent years, as most of us know, especially if we have children who play contact sports. Much of this concern has centered on possible links between repeated concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a serious, degenerative brain disease that affects the ability to think. But there have been hints that head trauma might also be linked to the development of other conditions, including multiple sclerosis. Past studies with animals have shown that trauma to the central nervous system, including the brain, may jump-start the kind of autoimmune reactions that underlie multiple sclerosis. (In the disease, the body’s immune system begins to attack the fatty sheaths that enwrap and protect nerve fibers, leaving them vulnerable to damage and scarring.) © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Multiple Sclerosis
Link ID: 24219 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Rebecca Robbins, LAS VEGAS — It’s a study that probably couldn’t be conducted anywhere other than this hot spot for professional combatants, where marquee fights are about as common as Celine Dion concerts. Researchers have enrolled close to 700 mixed martial arts fighters and boxers, both active and retired, in the past six years. The ambitious goal: to learn to identify early signs of trauma-induced brain damage from subtle changes in blood chemistry, brain imaging, and performance tests — changes that may show up decades before visible symptoms such as cognitive impairment, depression, and impulsive behavior. Among the participants is 29-year-old Gina Mazany. She has a streak of pinkish-purple hair, a tattoo of a pterodactyl with a cheeseburger in its beak, and a reputation as a formidable MMA fighter worthy of her nickname, Gina Danger. Once a year, she undergoes a battery of medical tests here at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, an outpost of the Cleveland Clinic, to help suss out the toll of a career marked by concussions and blows to the head. “I’m one of their guinea pigs,” she said. Last month, researchers at Boston University made a splash when they identified high levels of a protein called CCL11 in the brain and spinal fluid of deceased football players with the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Cleveland Clinic researchers are taking a different tack: They’re monitoring professional fighters while they’re still alive — and, most of the time, while they’re still fighting. By repeating a series of tests year after year, they hope to pick up on changes that might predict development of CTE. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24209 - Posted: 10.18.2017

French scientists claim they may have found a physiological, and seemingly treatable, cause for dyslexia hidden in tiny light-receptor cells in the human eye. In people with the condition, the cells were arranged in matching patterns in both eyes, which may be to blame for confusing the brain by producing “mirror” images, the co-authors wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In non-dyslexic people, the cells are arranged asymmetrically, allowing signals from the one eye to be overridden by the other to create a single image in the brain. “Our observations lead us to believe that we indeed found a potential cause of dyslexia,” said the study’s co-author, Guy Ropars, of the University of Rennes. It offers a “relatively simple” method of diagnosis, he added, by simply looking into a subject’s eyes. Furthermore, “the discovery of a delay (of about 10 thousandths of a second) between the primary image and the mirror image in the opposing hemispheres of the brain, allowed us to develop a method to erase the mirror image that is so confusing for dyslexic people” – using an LED lamp. Like being left- or right-handed, human beings also have a dominant eye. As most of us have two eyes, which record slightly different versions of the same image, the brain has to select one of the two, creating a “non-symmetry”. Many more people are right-eyed than left, and the dominant eye has more neural connections to the brain than the weaker one. Image signals are captured with rods and cones in the eye – the cones being responsible for colour. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Dyslexia; Vision
Link ID: 24208 - Posted: 10.18.2017

By Diana Kwon Recovering from a concussion typically takes female athletes more than twice as long as males, according to a new study that tracked hundreds of teenagers active in sports. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that vulnerability to this injury—and aspects of the healing process—may vary by sex. A handful of studies published since the mid-2000s have suggested that girls in high school and college may sustain a higher rate of these injuries on the playing field than boys do, and investigations over the last few years have indicated they may also take longer to recover. As a result, when sports medicine researchers and experts convened in Berlin last fall for the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport, their subsequent statement cited evidence girls were more likely to suffer concussions that required a more lengthy recovery period than their male counterparts did. “But there wasn’t enough data to [definitively] say that this was the case,” says John Neidecker, a sports medicine physician with the Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. “We thought that we'd take a look back at the athletes that we saw over a three-year period and actually [provide] some objective data.” Neidecker and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of 212 middle and high school athletes who visited a sports medicine practice in southern New Jersey—110 boys and 102 girls—who had experienced their first concussion while playing an organized sport such as football, field hockey or wrestling. (Only initial head injuries were considered to rule out the possible effect of prior incidents.) Their analysis revealed the median recovery time for girls was 28 days—more than double that of boys, which was 11 days. The results appeared Monday inThe Journal of the © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24142 - Posted: 10.03.2017

By PERRI KLASS, M.D. More than 30 years ago, my toddler stood up in his stroller, evading the various belts and restraints, and took a dramatic header down onto the pavement. He cried right away — a good thing, because it meant he didn’t lose consciousness, and by the time we got home, he seemed to be consoled, though he was already developing a major goose egg. I was a fourth-year medical student at the time and called the pediatric practice at University Health Services, and explained, somewhat frantically, that I was due to get on a flight to California with him in a couple of hours; I was going out for my all-important residency interviews. No problem, said the sympathetic doctor on call, all those years ago. You’re a medical student, you must have a penlight. Just take it along on the plane, and make sure you wake your son up every two hours and check that his pupils are equal, round and reactive to light. And he wished me good luck at my interviews. I hung up, much comforted. It was not until we were sitting on the airplane, me with my penlight in my pocket, that it occurred to me to wonder what I was supposed to do if somewhere over the Midwest, his pupils were not equal, round and reactive. We’ve gotten better, I hope, at some of the advice we give, but for pediatricians and for parents, head trauma in children is still an occasion for difficult decision making. Unlike broken limbs, usually detected because of pain and clearly diagnosed with X-rays, head injuries are tricky to diagnose and manage. In many cases where the concern is concussion, there is no medication or surgery that can make a difference — the primary treatment is rest. Public awareness over the ties between concussions and later problems for children, and publicity about chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes may be making parents even more anxious about treating head injuries. But with increasing concern in recent years about the radiation risk to children of CT scans, doing a head CT just to reassure a worried parent — or even a worried doctor — is generally seen as bad medicine; if you’re giving a child a significant dose of possibly dangerous radiation, you need to have some evidence that you may actually be doing something necessary for that child’s safety. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Brain imaging
Link ID: 24135 - Posted: 10.02.2017

By GINA KOLATA Otto F. Warmbier, the college student imprisoned in North Korea and returned to the United States in a vegetative state, suffered extensive brain damage following interrupted blood flow and a lack of oxygen, according to the coroner who examined his body. But an external examination and “virtual autopsy” conducted by the coroner’s office in Hamilton County, Ohio, could not determine how his circulation had been cut off. “All we can do is theorize, and we hate to theorize without science backing us up,” Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the county coroner, said in an interview Thursday. Mr. Warmbier, 22, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, was convicted in March 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda poster while on a trip to North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was flown back to the United States in June in a vegetative state. North Korean officials said Mr. Warmbier’s condition was caused by sleeping pills and botulism, a diagnosis that medical experts doubted. He died six days later at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. His parents requested that a full autopsy not be performed. On Tuesday, during an appearance on the television show “Fox & Friends,” Fred Warmbier said that his son had been “tortured” and described North Korean officials as “terrorists.” After the interview, President Trump said in a tweet that Mr. Warmbier “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.” On Thursday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement denying again that Mr. Warmbier had been tortured and accusing the United States of “employing even a dead person” in a “conspiracy campaign” against North Korea. Dr. Sammarco’s examination, which was concluded earlier this month, did not find signs of torture but could not rule out the possibility. “There are a lot of horrible things you can do to a human body that don’t leave external signs behind,” Dr. Sammarco said. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24122 - Posted: 09.29.2017

Greta Jochem Concussions have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, especially as professional football players' brains have shown signs of degenerative brain disease linked with repeated blows to the head. Now, a new analysis confirms what many doctors fear — that concussions start showing up at a high rate in teens who are active in contact sports. About 20 percent of teens said they have been diagnosed with at least one concussion. And nearly 6 percent said they've been diagnosed with more than one, according to a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says concussions can result in headaches, nausea and irritability. While most people do not suffer from long-term impacts from a concussion, between 10 percent and 20 percent may experience symptoms like depression, headaches or difficulty concentrating. Some people experience sleep problems, and multiple concussions are one way to cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease notably found in some NFL players. The letter's authors looked at 13,000 questionnaire responses from the 2016 version of Monitoring the Future. Each year since 1975, the study, run by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, has surveyed high school students all over the country about their behaviors and attitudes. According to Philip Veliz, an author of the JAMA letter and an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Research on Women & Gender, in 2016, the survey added a question asking whether students had ever had a concussion. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24117 - Posted: 09.28.2017

By BENEDICT CAREY The brain damage was so severe that scientists all but gasped. Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, was convicted of murder and killed himself in prison last April at age 27. An autopsy revealed that he had brain injuries akin to that seen in afflicted former players in their 60s, researchers announced on Thursday. The sheer extent of the damage turns on its head the usual question about violence and so-called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. If accumulated head trauma can cause such damage, might the injuries in turn lead to murder and suicide? It’s a natural presumption to make, given the tragic suicides of Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and other former football players diagnosed post-mortem with C.T.E. And it’s a question that the courts will have to wrestle with. On Friday, the National Football League vowed to defend itself against a lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Hernandez’s daughter and fiancée, who claims that his injuries and death were a direct result of his participation in football. The science itself — like most attempts to link brain biology to behavior — is murkier. In recent decades, researchers have made extraordinary strides in understanding the workings of brain cells, neural circuits and anatomy. Yet drawing a direct line from those basic findings to what people do out in the world is dicey, given the ineffable interplay between circumstance, relationships and personality. What scientists — from such diverse fields as psychiatry, neurology and substance use — can say is that the arrows seem to be pointing in the same direction. A number of brain states raise the risk of acting out violently, and the evidence so far, while incomplete, suggests that C.T.E. may be one of them. Dr. Samuel Gandy, director of the N.F.L. neurology program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said that rage and irritability “are far and away the most prominent symptoms” among former players with likely C.T.E., in his research. His group has identified 10 of 24 former players who probably have C.T.E. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Aggression
Link ID: 24104 - Posted: 09.23.2017