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by Laura Dattaro Two new studies untangle how various classes of genetic variants underpin the vast differences in traits seen among people diagnosed with autism. The studies were published yesterday in Nature Genetics. “The fundamental question behind this is heterogeneity in autism,” says Varun Warrier, a postdoctoral researcher in Simon Baron-Cohen’s lab at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and an investigator on one of the studies. The presence and intensity of core autism traits and co-occurring conditions vary widely among autistic people. The new studies, from largely independent teams, sought to unravel how different categories of genetic variants — rare, common, inherited and spontaneous — contribute to this heterogeneity. Though the two sets of findings conflict in some ways — potentially because of methodological differences — the papers add to the evidence that common and rare variants contribute to autism’s genetic architecture differently, says Yufeng Shen, associate professor of systems biology at Columbia University, who was not involved in either study. “When we say different, it’s not black and white,” Shen says. “They overlap, but it seems like, qualitatively, they have different contributions.” Warrier and his colleagues analyzed genetic and behavioral data from 12,893 autistic people. The data came from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, the Longitudinal European Autism Project, the Simons Simplex Collection and SPARK. (The Simons Simplex Collection and SPARK are funded by the Simons Foundation, Spectrum’s parent organization.) © 2022 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 28356 - Posted: 06.07.2022

By Colleen DeGuzman Jessica Oberoi, 13, cannot remember when her eyesight started getting blurry. All she knows is that she had to squint to see the whiteboard at school. It wasn’t until last fall when her eighth-grade class in Bloomington, Ind., got vision screenings that Jessica’s extreme nearsightedness and amblyopia, or lazy eye, were discovered. She has been going through intense treatment since then, and her optometrist, Katie Connolly, said Jessica has made great improvements — but her lazy eye, which causes depth perception problems, may never go away. The chances of it being completely corrected would have been much higher if her condition had been caught earlier, said Connolly, chief of pediatric and binocular vision service at Indiana University’s School of Optometry. Jessica is one of the countless students falling through the cracks of the nation’s fractured efforts to catch and treat vision problems among children. A mobile clinic is helping low-income students to see clearly — one pair of glasses at a time The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 600,000 children and teens are blind or have a vision disorder. A recent opinion article published on JAMA Network notes that a large number of these children could be helped simply with glasses, but because of high costs and lack of insurance coverage, many are not getting them. Yet the National Survey of Children’s Health, funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, found that in 2016-2017 a quarter of children were not regularly screened for vision problems. And a large majority of those vision impairments could be treated or cured if caught early, Connolly said. “Screenings are important for kids because kids don’t realize what’s abnormal,” Connolly said. “They don’t know what their peers around them — or even their parents — are seeing to realize their experience is different.” © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 28355 - Posted: 06.07.2022

Viviane Callier Our human brains can seem like a crowning achievement of evolution, but the roots of that achievement run deep: The modern brain arose from hundreds of millions of years of incremental advances in complexity. Evolutionary biologists have traced that progress back through the branch of the animal family tree that includes all creatures with central nervous systems, the bilaterians, but it is clear that fundamental elements of the nervous system existed much earlier. How much earlier has now been made dramatically clear by a recent discovery by a team of researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. They found that the chemical precursors of two important neurotransmitters, or signaling molecules used in nervous systems, appear in all the major animal groups that preceded creatures with central nervous systems. The big surprise, however, is that these molecules are also present in single-celled relatives of animals, called choanoflagellates. This finding shows that animal neuropeptides originated before the evolution of even the very first animals. The discovery “solves a long-standing question about when and how animal neuropeptides evolved,” said Pawel Burkhardt, who studies the evolutionary origin of neurons at the Sars International Center for Marine Molecular Biology in Norway. It also indicates that at least some of the signaling molecules fundamental to the operation of our brains first evolved for an entirely different purpose in organisms that consisted of only a single cell. Animal nervous systems are made of neurons that connect to each other, zipping information across synapses with a variety of small peptide neurotransmitters. These peptides are the language with which neurons speak to each other. All Rights Reserved © 2022

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28354 - Posted: 06.04.2022

Jon Hamilton An HIV drug — known as maraviroc — may have another, unexpected, use. The medication appears to restore a type of memory that allows us to link an event, like a wedding, with the people we saw there, a team reports in this week's issue of the journal Nature. Maraviroc's ability to improve this sort of memory was demonstrated in mice, but the drug acts on a brain system that's also found in humans and plays a role in a range of problems with the brain and nervous system. "You might have an effect in Alzheimer's disease, in stroke, in Parkinson's and also in spinal cord injuries," says Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, chair of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. The ability to link memories that occur around the same time is known as relational memory. It typically declines with age, and may be severely impaired in people with Alzheimer's disease. Problems with relational memory can appear in people who have no difficulty forming new memories, says Alcino Silva, an author of the new study and director of the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory at UCLA. "You learn about something, but you can't remember where you heard it. You can't remember who told you about it," Silva says. "These incidents happen more and more often as we go from middle age into older age." © 2022 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28353 - Posted: 06.04.2022

Meghan Hoyer and Tim Meko When Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl learned that the perpetrator of the Uvalde, Tex., school massacre was a young man barely out of adolescence, it was hard not to think about the peculiarities of the maturing male brain. Salvador Rolando Ramos had just turned 18, eerily close in age to Nikolas Cruz, who had been 19 when he shot up a school in Parkland, Fla. And to Adam Lanza, 20, when he did the same in Newtown, Conn. To Seung-Hui Cho, 23, at Virginia Tech. And to Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, in Columbine, Colo. Teen and young adult males have long stood out from other subgroups for their impulsive behavior. They are far more reckless and prone to violence than their counterparts in other age groups, and their leading causes of death includes fights, accidents, driving too fast, or, as Metzl put it, “other impulsive kinds of acts.” “There’s a lot of research about how their brains are not fully developed in terms of regulation,” he said. Perhaps most significantly, studies show, the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling impulses, does not fully develop until about age 25. In that context, Metzl said, a shooting “certainly feels like another kind of performance of young masculinity.” In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect Ramos’s life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28352 - Posted: 06.04.2022

The Associated Press NEW YORK — Researchers are drawing attention to a rise in poisonings in children involving the sleep aid melatonin — including a big jump during the pandemic. Last year, U.S. poison control centers received more than 52,000 calls about children consuming worrisome amounts of the dietary supplement — a six-fold increase from about a decade earlier. Most such calls are about young children who accidentally got into bottles of melatonin, some of which come in the form of gummies for kids. Parents may think of melatonin as the equivalent of a vitamin and leave it on a nightstand, said Dr. Karima Lelak, an emergency physician at Children's Hospital of Michigan and the lead author of the study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But really it's a medication that has the potential to cause harm, and should be put way in the medicine cabinet," Lelak said. An increasingly popular over-the-counter sleep aid Melatonin is a hormone that helps control the body's sleep cycle. It has become a popular over-the-counter sleeping aid, with sales increasing 150% between 2016 and 2020, the authors said. In the U.S., melatonin is sold as a supplement, not regulated as a drug. Because melatonin is unregulated, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't have oversight over the purity of ingredients or the accuracy of dosage claims. Other researchers have found that what's on the label may not match what's actually in the bottle, and some countries have banned the sale of over-the-counter melatonin. © 2022 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 28351 - Posted: 06.04.2022

By Jack Tamisiea Sign up for Science Times Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body. Get it sent to your inbox. Since the days of Charles Darwin, the long necks of giraffes have been a textbook example of evolution. The theory goes that as giraffe ancestors competed for food, those with longer necks were able to reach higher leaves, getting a leg — or neck — up over shorter animals. But a bizarre prehistoric giraffe relative reveals that fighting may have driven early neck evolution in addition to foraging. In a study published Thursday in Science, a team of paleontologists described Discokeryx xiezhi, a giraffe ancestor, as having helmet-like headgear and bulky neck vertebrae. Discokeryx was adapted to absorb and deliver skull-cracking collisions to woo mates and vanquish rivals. “It shows that giraffe evolution is not just elongating the neck,” said Jin Meng, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History and co-author of the new study. “Discokeryx goes in a totally different direction.” Dr. Meng and his colleagues discovered the fossils in an outcrop of rock in northwestern China called the Junggar Basin. Around 17 million years ago, this area was an expanse of savannas and forests home to an array of large mammals like shovel-tusked elephants, short-horned rhinoceroses and burly bear dogs. While exploring this bonebed in 1996, Dr. Meng stumbled across a hunk of skull. He could tell it was a mammalian braincase, but the top was flattened like an iron press. Without more of the animal’s skeleton, Dr. Meng and his colleagues referred to it as the “strange beast.” © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution; Aggression
Link ID: 28350 - Posted: 06.04.2022

By Tina Hesman Saey Dogs are as reliable as laboratory tests for detecting COVID-19 cases, and may be even better than PCR tests for identifying infected people who don’t have symptoms. A bonus: The canines are cuter and less invasive than a swab up the nose. In a study involving sweat samples from 335 people, trained dogs sniffed out 97 percent of the coronavirus cases that had been identified by PCR tests, researchers report June 1 in PLOS One. And the dogs found all 31 COVID-19 cases among 192 people who didn’t have symptoms. These findings are evidence that dogs could be effective for mass screening efforts at places such as airports or concerts and may provide friendly alternatives for testing people who balk at nasal swabs, says Dominique Grandjean, a veterinarian at the National School of Veterinary Medicine of Alfort in Maisons-Alfort, France. “The dog doesn’t lie,” but there are many ways PCR tests can go wrong, Grandjean says. The canines’ noses also identified more COVID-19 cases than did antigen tests (SN: 12/17/21), similar to many at-home tests, but sometimes mistook another respiratory virus for the coronavirus, Grandjean and colleagues found. What’s more, anecdotal evidence suggests the dogs can pick up asymptomatic cases as much as 48 hours before people test positive by PCR, he says. In the study, dogs from French fire stations and from the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates were trained in coronavirus detection by rewarding them with toys — usually tennis balls. “It’s playtime for them,” Grandjean says. It takes about three to six weeks, depending on the dog’s experience with odor detection, to train a dog to pick out COVID-19 cases from sweat samples. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28349 - Posted: 06.04.2022

The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) established that dietary supplements can slow progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in older Americans. In a new report, scientists analyzed 10 years of AREDS2 data. They show that the AREDS2 formula, which substituted antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene, not only reduces risk of lung cancer due to beta-carotene, but is also more effective at reducing risk of AMD progression, compared to the original formula. A report on the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, published in JAMA Ophthalmology. “Because beta-carotene increased the risk of lung cancer for current smokers in two NIH-supported studies, our goal with AREDS2 was to create an equally effective supplement formula that could be used by anyone, whether or not they smoke,” said Emily Chew, M.D., director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Application at the National Eye Institute (NEI), and lead author of the study report. “This 10-year data confirms that not only is the new formula safer, it’s actually better at slowing AMD progression.” AMD is a degenerative disease of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Progressive death of retinal cells in the macula, the part of the retina that provides clear central vision, eventually leads to blindness. Treatment can slow or reverse vision loss; however, no cure for AMD exists. The original AREDS study, launched in 1996, showed that a dietary supplement formulation (500 mg vitamin C, 400 international units vitamin E, 2 mg copper, 80 mg zinc, and 15 mg beta-carotene) could significantly slow the progression of AMD from moderate to late disease. However, two concurrent studies also revealed that people who smoked and took beta-carotene had a significantly higher risk of lung cancer than expected.

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 28348 - Posted: 06.04.2022

By Hilary Achauer I sat in a dark room, eyes closed, with a device strapped to my head that looked like a futuristic bike helmet. For 10 minutes, while I concentrated on not accidentally opening my eyes, the prongs sticking out of this gadget and onto my scalp measured a health marker I never thought to assess: my cognitive health. When I booked my brain wave recording (also known as electroencephalography, or EEG), I expected to pull up to an office park with medical clinic vibes, but instead my GPS led me to an ocean-view storefront decorated like a cross between a surf shop and a luxury spa, with a sign in the window promising “Mental Wellness, Reimagined.” Located in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a wealthy coastal town north of San Diego, Wave Neuroscience promises to help your brain perform better with a noninvasive treatment that uses magnets on the brain. We’re talking mental clarity, improved focus and concentration, and even a shift in mood. As a 48-year-old whose work requires focus and creativity, I was intrigued, but also nervous. Should I mess with a brain that, while not perfect, functions reasonably well? Advertisement Getting the EEG, which costs $100, was like meditating with a device strapped to my head, but it was more relaxing than that sounds. The tech gave me periodic updates, letting me know how much time had elapsed, and afterward I was ushered into an office where I met with Alexander Ring, director of applied science at Wave Neuroscience, via Zoom. Together we reviewed my “braincare report,” a one-page analysis generated in five minutes, comparing my brain waves with Wave Neuroscience’s database of tens of thousands of EEGs. Ring said my brain was generally performing well and that I showed cognitive flexibility and a capability to focus under pressure, but that I had a little bit more theta activity, or slow brain waves, than they normally like to see. He also pointed out a slight frequency mismatch between the back and front of my brain, which might affect my concentration and cause me to have to reread a paragraph to absorb the information. Rude, but accurate. © 2022 The Slate Group LLC. All rights reserved.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Attention
Link ID: 28347 - Posted: 06.01.2022

By Peter Kendall As he gets ready for sleep each night, Don Tucker slips on an electrode cap and checks a little computer on his bedside table. Many workers at the private lab, run by the professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, follow the same routine. The experimental device monitors the nightly voyage through sleep. After sensing light sleep for a few minutes, it pulses electric current through the scalp and skull, nudging the brain into that nirvana known as deep sleep. The goal is not just a more restful slumber. Groundbreaking discoveries made in the past decade have revealed that the brain has a power-washing system that switches into high gear during deep sleep, flushing away harmful waste. This nightly cleanup is part of the restorative power of sleep and revives concentration, memory and motor skills. As we age, however, this cleansing system gets sloppier, and it can begin to leave behind some of the metabolic detritus of the day, including the amyloid beta proteins found in the plaque that characterize Alzheimer’s disease and other devastating neurological disorders. The controversial approval of an Alzheimer’s drug reignites the battle over the underlying cause of the disease The stunning revelation in 2012 of this previously unknown brain infrastructure — dubbed the glymphatic system — has ushered in a new age of research and invention not only about sleep but also aging, dementia and brain injury. Nearly 300 research papers were published last year on the glymphatic system. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28346 - Posted: 06.01.2022

By Amber Dance Suppose a couple has two children, a boy and a girl. Chances are, they’ll both grow up with typical, healthy brains. But should either diverge from the usual route of brain development, or suffer mental health issues, their paths are likely to be different. The son’s differences might show up first. All else being equal, he’s four times more likely than his sister to be diagnosed with autism. Rates of other neurodevelopmental conditions and disabilities are also higher in boys. As he grows into a young man, his chances of developing schizophrenia will be two to three times higher than hers. When the siblings hit puberty, those relative risks will flip. The sister will be almost twice as likely to experience depression or an anxiety disorder. Much later in life, she’ll be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those trends are not hard and fast rules, of course: Men can and do suffer from depression and Alzheimer’s; some girls develop autism; women aren’t immune to schizophrenia. Male and female brains are more alike than they are different. But scientists are learning that there’s more to these different risk profiles than, say, the pressures women face in a patriarchal society or the fact that women tend to live longer, giving diseases of aging time to develop. Subtle biological differences between male and female brains, and bodies, are important contributors. To explain these sex differences, there are some obvious places to look. The female’s two X chromosomes, to the male’s single copy, is one. Differing sex hormones — primarily testosterone in males and estrogen in females — is another. But a steadily growing body of research points to a less obvious influence: the cells and molecules of the immune system. © 2022 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28345 - Posted: 06.01.2022

Diana Kwon The brain is the body’s sovereign, and receives protection in keeping with its high status. Its cells are long-lived and shelter inside a fearsome fortification called the blood–brain barrier. For a long time, scientists thought that the brain was completely cut off from the chaos of the rest of the body — especially its eager defence system, a mass of immune cells that battle infections and whose actions could threaten a ruler caught in the crossfire. In the past decade, however, scientists have discovered that the job of protecting the brain isn’t as straightforward as they thought. They’ve learnt that its fortifications have gateways and gaps, and that its borders are bustling with active immune cells. A large body of evidence now shows that the brain and the immune system are tightly intertwined. Scientists already knew that the brain had its own resident immune cells, called microglia; recent discoveries are painting more-detailed pictures of their functions and revealing the characteristics of the other immune warriors housed in the regions around the brain. Some of these cells come from elsewhere in the body; others are produced locally, in the bone marrow of the skull. By studying these immune cells and mapping out how they interact with the brain, researchers are discovering that they play an important part in both healthy and diseased or damaged brains. Interest in the field has exploded: there were fewer than 2,000 papers per year on the subject in 2010, swelling to more than 10,000 per year in 2021, and researchers have made several major findings in the past few years. No longer do scientists consider the brain to be a special, sealed-off zone. “This whole idea of immune privilege is quite outdated now,” says Kiavash Movahedi, a neuroimmunologist at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Although the brain is still seen as immunologically unique — its barriers prevent immune cells from coming and going at will — it’s clear that the brain and immune system constantly interact, he adds (see ‘The brain’s immune defences’). © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Glia
Link ID: 28344 - Posted: 06.01.2022

ByVirginia Morell Babies don’t babble to sound cute—they’re taking their first steps on the path to learning language. Now, a study shows parrot chicks do the same. Although the behavior has been seen in songbirds and two mammalian species, finding it in these birds is important, experts say, as they may provide the best nonhuman model for studying how we begin to learn language. The find is “exciting,” says Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Hunter College not involved with the work. Pepperberg herself discovered something like babbling in a famed African gray parrot named Alex, which she studied for more than 30 years. By unearthing the same thing in another parrot species and in the wild, she says, the team has shown this ability is widespread in the birds. In this study, the scientists focused on green-rumped parrotlets (Forpus passerinus)—a smaller species than Alex, found from Venezuela to Brazil. The team investigated a population at Venezuela’s Hato Masaguaral research center, where scientists maintain more than 100 artificial nesting boxes. Like other parrots, songbirds, and humans (and a few other mammal species), parrotlets are vocal learners. They master their calls by listening and mimicking what they hear. The chicks in the new study started to babble at 21 days, according to camcorders installed in a dozen of their nests. They increased the complexity of their sounds dramatically over the next week, the scientists report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The baby birds uttered strings of soft peeps, clicks, and grrs, but they weren’t communicating with their siblings or parents, says lead author Rory Eggleston, a Ph.D. student at Utah State University. Rather, like a human infant babbling quietly in their crib, a parrotlet chick made the sounds alone (see video). Indeed, most chicks started their babbling bouts when their siblings were asleep, often doing so without even opening their beaks, says Eggleston, who spent hours analyzing videos of the birds. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Language; Animal Communication
Link ID: 28343 - Posted: 06.01.2022

By Gina Kolata Maya Cohen’s entree into the world of obesity medicine came as a shock. In despair over her weight, she saw Dr. Caroline Apovian, an obesity specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who prescribed Saxenda, a recently approved weight-loss drug. Ms. Cohen, who is 55 and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, hastened to get it filled. Then she saw the price her pharmacy was charging: $1,500 a month. Her insurer classified it as a “vanity drug” and would not cover it. “I’m being treated for obesity,” she complained to her insurer, but to no avail. While Ms. Cohen was stunned by her insurer’s denial, Dr. Apovian was not. She says it is an all too common response from insurers when she prescribes weight-loss drugs and the universal response from Medicare drug plans. Obesity specialists despair but hope that with the advent of highly effective drugs, the situation will change. Novo-Nordisk, the maker of the medicine Dr. Apovian prescribed, and patient advocacy groups have been aggressively lobbying insurers to pay for weight-loss drugs. They also have been lobbying Congress to pass a bill that has languished through three administrations that would require Medicare to pay for the drugs. But for now, the status quo has not budged. No one disputes the problem — more than 40 percent of Americans have obesity, and most have tried repeatedly to lose weight and keep it off, only to fail. Many suffer from medical conditions that are linked to obesity, including diabetes, joint and back pain and heart disease, and those conditions often improve with weight loss. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 28342 - Posted: 06.01.2022

By Laura Sanders Punishing headbutts damage the brains of musk oxen. That observation, made for the first time and reported May 17 in Acta Neuropathologica, suggests that a life full of bell-ringing clashes is not without consequences, even in animals built to bash. Although a musk ox looks like a dirty dust mop on four tiny hooves, it’s formidable. When charging, it can reach speeds up to 60 kilometers an hour before ramming its head directly into an oncoming head. People expected that musk oxen brains could withstand these merciless forces largely unscathed, “that they were magically perfect,” says Nicole Ackermans of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “No one actually checked.” In fact, the brains of three wild musk oxen (two females and one male) showed signs of extensive damage, Ackermans and her colleagues found. The damage was similar to what’s seen in people with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder known to be caused by repetitive head hits (SN: 12/13/17). In the musk ox brains, a form of a protein called tau had accumulated in patterns that suggested brain bashing was to blame. In an unexpected twist, the brains of the females, who hit heads less frequently than males, were worse off than the male’s. The male body, with its heavier skull, stronger neck muscles and forehead fat pads, may cushion the blows to the brain, the researchers suspect. The results may highlight an evolutionary balancing act; the animals can endure just enough brain damage to allow them to survive and procreate. High-level brainwork may not matter much, Ackermans says. “Their day-to-day life is not super complicated.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Evolution
Link ID: 28341 - Posted: 05.28.2022

Perspective by Elizabeth Grey I’m told I don’t look like a heroin addict. I am a married, middle-aged woman, a taxpaying homeowner. As privilege goes, I have it. Because I’m White, I get treated better in medical settings such as hospitals and rehabs. I have health insurance. I have access to credit. My spouse could not be more supportive. But every day for a couple of years I left my house with a river view and drove downtown in South Yonkers to meet my dealer. I know a letter carrier who once worked that neighborhood. He told me there was a time when you could buy an Uzi on his route. I knew the first time I bought heroin at age 48 that doing so probably meant the end of my life. But compared to withdrawal, that was fine by me. Looks and bias may deceive, but numbers don’t lie. The United States hit a record of overdose deaths last year. And the great, gaping hole of the response to the opioid epidemic is that withdrawal is the most important aspect, and it’s barely given lip service. I often wonder how many suicides are a result of people unable to bear it. There is no net. The window of time between putting down the drug and even a whiff of hope is too long. The only place to land is hell. The medical community and lawmakers have never appreciated what withdrawal — or getting dopesick — does to a human being. Current policies and protocols can only manufacture heroin addicts. And I was a degenerate one. One day I noticed the inspection sticker on my car had expired. But it cost $37 to get an inspection, and that was almost four bags of heroin. I could not afford it. Every dollar went toward my growing habit. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28340 - Posted: 05.28.2022

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “You have to take your husband to the hospital right now,” the doctor urged over the phone. “His kidneys aren’t working at all, and we need to find out why.” The woman looked at her 82-year-old spouse. He was so thin and pale. She thanked the doctor and called 911. For the past couple of months, every meal was a struggle. Swallowing food was strangely difficult. Liquids were even worse. Whatever he drank seemed to go down the wrong pipe, and he coughed and sputtered after almost every sip. It was terrifying. He saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, who scoped his mouth and esophagus. There wasn’t anything blocking the way. The doctor recommended that he get some therapy to help him strengthen the muscles he used to swallow, and until he did that, he should thicken his liquids to make drinking easier. The patient tried that once, but it was so disgusting he gave up on it. His wife was worried as she watched him eat and drink less and less. She could see that he was getting weaker every day. He had a stroke four months earlier, and since then his right foot dragged a little. But now she had to help him get out of his recliner. And he wasn’t able to drive — she had to make the 45-minute trip with him each day to his office. Finally, he agreed to see Dr. Richard Kaufman, their primary-care doctor. Kaufman was shocked by the man’s appearance, how the skin on his face hung in folds as if air had been let out of his cheeks. He’d lost nearly 40 pounds. He struggled to walk the few steps to the exam table. His right side, which was weakened by his stroke, was now matched by weakness on his left side. His stroke hadn’t done this. There was something else going on. Kaufman ordered some preliminary blood tests to try to see where the problem might lie. Those were the results that sent the couple to the emergency room. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Muscles
Link ID: 28339 - Posted: 05.28.2022

By Ernesto Londoño TIJUANA, Mexico — Plumes of incense swirled through the dimly lit living room as seven women took turns explaining what drove them to sign up for a weekend of psychedelic therapy at a villa in northern Mexico with sweeping ocean views. A former U.S. Marine said she hoped to connect with the spirit of her mother, who killed herself 11 years ago. An Army veteran said she had been sexually assaulted by a relative as a child. A handful of veterans said they had been sexually assaulted by fellow service members. The wife of a Navy bomb disposal expert choked up as she lamented that years of unrelenting combat missions had turned her husband into an absent, dysfunctional father. Kristine Bostwick, 38, a former Navy corpsman, said she hoped that putting her mind through ceremonies with mind-altering substances would help her make peace with the end of a turbulent marriage and perhaps ease the migraines that had become a daily torment. “I want to reset my brain from the bottom up,” she said during the introductory session of a recent three-day retreat, wiping away tears. “My kids deserve it. I deserve it.” A growing body of research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic therapy has generated enthusiasm among some psychiatrists and venture capitalists. Measures to decriminalize psychedelics, fund research into their healing potential and establish frameworks for their medicinal use have been passed with bipartisan support in city councils and state legislatures across the United States in recent years. Much of the expanding appeal of such treatments has been driven by veterans of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having turned to experimental therapies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, addiction and depression, many former military members have become effusive advocates for a wider embrace of psychedelics. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28338 - Posted: 05.25.2022

By Tess Joosse The mere sight of another person yawning causes many of us to open our mouths wide in mimicry. And we’re not alone—other social animals, such aschimpanzees and lions, can also catch so-called contagious yawns. It’s likely that all vertebrates yawn spontaneously to regulate inner body processes. Yawning probably arose with the evolution of jawed fishes 400 million or so years ago, says Andrew Gallup, an evolutionary biologist at State University of New York Polytechnic Institute who has spent years trying to figure out why we yawn. In a paper published this month in Animal Behavior, he reports some evidence for how contagious yawns might have evolved to keep us safe. Science chatted with Gallup about why yawning is ubiquitous—and useful. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Q: First, let’s address a long-standing myth: Does yawning increase blood oxygen levels? A: No. Despite continued belief, research has explicitly tested that hypothesis and the results have concluded that breathing and yawning are controlled by different mechanisms. For example, there are really interesting cases of yawning in marine mammals, where the yawning occurs while the animal is submerged underwater and therefore not breathing. Q: So what does yawning actually do to the body? A: Yawning is a rather complex reflex. It’s triggered under a variety of contexts and neurophysiological changes. It primarily occurs during periods of state change, commonly following transitions of sleeping and waking. There’s research that also suggests that yawns are initiated alongside increases in cortical arousal, so yawns themselves may function to promote alertness. And there’s a growing body of research that suggests that yawning is triggered by rises in brain temperature. I’ve conducted a number of studies testing this in humans, nonhuman mammals, and even birds. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 28337 - Posted: 05.25.2022