Chapter 15. Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language

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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

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

Laura Sanders A season of head hits left its mark on college football players’ brains, even when those hits didn’t cause concussions. Routine head bumps over the course of a season were linked to abnormal brain tissue in part of players’ brain stems, researchers report August 7 in Science Advances. It’s unclear if these brain stem changes affect mental performance, or whether the changes are permanent. But the study suggests that in addition to the big hits that cause concussions, these smaller knocks could cause trouble. During the 2011, 2012 and 2013 football seasons, a team led by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York recruited players from the university to participate in a study looking at head impacts and brain health. Each player wore an accelerometer in his helmet to capture the forces at play during all practices and games during a single season. The players also underwent pre- and post-season brain scans. A measure called fractional anisotropy let researchers estimate how well stretches of white matter brain tissue can carry neural signals, a key job of healthy brain tissue. The 38 players included in the study collectively took 19,128 hits. And by the end of their season, the players on average had lower measures of fractional anisotropy in their right midbrains — a part of the brain stem. These declines were more tightly linked to the number of hits that twisted heads, as opposed to direct head-on hits. Those rotational forces might be particularly damaging to brain tissue, a finding that fits with results from earlier studies, the researchers write. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26491 - Posted: 08.13.2019

Ian Sample Science editor Doctors have turned the brain signals for speech into written sentences in a research project that aims to transform how patients with severe disabilities communicate in the future. The breakthrough is the first to demonstrate how the intention to say specific words can be extracted from brain activity and converted into text rapidly enough to keep pace with natural conversation. In its current form, the brain-reading software works only for certain sentences it has been trained on, but scientists believe it is a stepping stone towards a more powerful system that can decode in real time the words a person intends to say. A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ - podcast Doctors at the University of California in San Francisco took on the challenge in the hope of creating a product that allows paralysed people to communicate more fluidly than using existing devices that pick up eye movements and muscle twitches to control a virtual keyboard. “To date there is no speech prosthetic system that allows users to have interactions on the rapid timescale of a human conversation,” said Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon and lead researcher on the study published in the journal Nature. The work, funded by Facebook, was possible thanks to three epilepsy patients who were about to have neurosurgery for their condition. Before their operations went ahead, all three had a small patch of tiny electrodes placed directly on the brain for at least a week to map the origins of their seizures. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging; Language
Link ID: 26472 - Posted: 07.31.2019

Dr. Brian Goldman A 2018 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that brain injuries — which are caused by a blow to the head — send just over a million children and adolescents per year to emergency departments. A study published Monday in the journal Brain Injury reveals some disturbing reasons for these potentially serious injuries. Researchers led by Bina Ali from the U.S.-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation reviewed injury surveillance data over a four-year period ending in 2013. They looked for specific causes of brain injuries in children and adolescents in five age groups from infancy to 19 years of age. Overall, 72 per cent of brain injuries that did not result in death but did result in a visit to the emergency department were caused by consumer products that are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the independent U.S. government agency that develops uniform standards while promoting the safety of consumer products. The study found that the type of consumer product depended on the age of the child. Infants under one year of age got traumatic brain injuries because they fell. According to the researchers, 25 per cent of all emergency visits for traumatic brain injuries in that age group were caused by a fall from the crib or bed. At 14 per cent, the second leading cause was uneven flooring that caused the infant to trip and fall. Bunk beds were especially risky in children one to four years of age. But stairs and floors were equally hazardous in that age group. Between five and nine years of age, flooring was still the leading cause of brain injuries, and falling off a bicycle placed second. ©2019 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26463 - Posted: 07.30.2019

By Derrick Bryson Taylor Many owners struggle to teach their dogs to sit, fetch or even bark on command, but John W. Pilley, a professor emeritus of psychology at Wofford College, taught his Border collie to understand more than 1,000 nouns, a feat that earned them both worldwide recognition. For some time, Dr. Pilley had been conducting his own experiment teaching dogs the names of objects and was inspired by Border collie farmers to rethink his methods. Dr. Pilley was given a black-and-white Border collie as a gift by his wife Sally. For three years, Dr. Pilley trained the dog, named Chaser, four to five hours a day: He showed her an object, said its name up to 40 times, then hid it and asked her to find it. He used 800 cloth animal toys, 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and an assortment of plastic items to ultimately teach Chaser 1,022 nouns. In 2013, Dr. Pilley published his findings that explained that Chaser was taught to understand sentences containing a prepositional object, verb and direct object. Chaser died on Tuesday at 15. She had been living with Dr. Pilley’s wife and their daughter Robin in Spartanburg. Dr. Pilley died last year at 89. Another daughter, Pilley Bianchi, said on Saturday that Chaser had been in declining health in recent weeks. “The vet really determined that she died of natural causes,” Ms. Bianchi said. “She went down very quickly.” Ms. Bianchi, who helped her father train Chaser, said the dog had been undergoing acupuncture for arthritis but had no other known illnesses. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 26458 - Posted: 07.29.2019

Ian Sample Science editor Brain scans of US embassy staff who became ill in mysterious circumstances while serving in Cuba have found potential abnormalities that may be related to their symptoms. The scans taken from 40 US government workers who suffered strange concussion-like symptoms during their deployment to Havana revealed that particular brain features looked different to those in healthy volunteers. Images of the diplomats’ brains found that on average they had lower volumes of white matter, the tissue made from nerve bundles that send messages around the brain. They also showed micro-structural differences and other changes that could affect auditory and visuospatial processing, doctors said. But the medical team that performed the scans said the findings were not conclusive. They do not match what is normally seen in brain injuries and the severity of symptoms did not vary with the extent of the brain differences spotted. “It’s a unique presentation that we have not seen before,” said Ragini Verma, a professor of biomedical imaging on the team at the University of Pennsylvania. “What caused it? I’m completely unequipped to answer that.” Independent experts agreed the findings were inconclusive and said it was still unclear whether the diplomats were victims of any attack or had suffered related brain injuries. The apparent abnormalities might have pre-dated the attacks, they said, and could have more mundane explanations such as anxiety or depression. One said the study did not meet the usual standards for publication. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging; Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26446 - Posted: 07.24.2019

By Knvul Sheikh On Sálvora Island, off the coast of Spain, thousands of yellow-legged gulls dot the grassy cliffs from April to late July. It is a riot of white wings and plaintive calls. Occasionally, the chorus changes as the seabirds engage in courtship and chick-feeding. And when the adults notice a predator, such as a dusky-coated mink, the chorus shifts again, to a characteristic alarm call — ha-ha-ha. These acoustic cues reach not just young and adult gulls but unhatched embryos, too. In 2018, researchers found that when gull eggs hatch, the ones that were exposed to alarm calls were able to crouch and hide from predators a couple of seconds faster than others. A few other bird species, including quails, fairywrens and zebra finches, are known to relay similar cues about the environment to their unhatched young, to prepare hatchlings to fend for themselves. But embryos aren’t receiving wisdom only from their parents. A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggests that they’re also receiving cues from nearby unhatched siblings. “Paying attention to cues from the outside is important for survival,” said Jose C. Noguera, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Vigo in Spain, who led the study. Embryos that do so develop traits that provide an advantage in avoiding predators, identifying other species of birds or building their own nests in warmer temperatures later in life, he said. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Communication; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26442 - Posted: 07.23.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar Maintaining a low level of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, is important for cardiovascular health, but extremely low LDL may also have risks, researchers report. The scientists studied 96,043 people for an average of nine years, recording their LDL level biennially and tracking cases of hemorrhagic stroke, caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. About 13 percent of strokes are of the hemorrhagic type. They found that compared with people in the normal range for LDL — 70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter of blood — people who had an LDL of 50 to 69 had a 65 percent higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. For people with an LDL below 50, the risk nearly tripled. LDL concentrations above 100, on the other hand, were not significantly associated with hemorrhagic stroke, even at levels higher than 160. The study, in Neurology, controlled for age, sex, education, income, diabetes, hypertension and other variables. The senior author, Dr. Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, said that this does not mean that having a high LDL is harmless. “High LDL is a risk for cardiovascular disease, and a level above 100 should be lowered,” he said. “But there is no single answer for everyone. The ideal level varies depending on an individual’s risk factors. We need a personalized recommendation rather than a general rule.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26402 - Posted: 07.10.2019

By Jane E. Brody Kelly Baxter was 36 years old and had just moved to Illinois with her 41-year-old husband, Ted, when he suffered a disabling stroke that derailed his high-powered career in international finance. It derailed her life as well. “It was a terrible shock, especially in such a young, healthy, athletic man,” she told me. “Initially I was in denial. He’s this amazing guy, so determined. He’s going to get over this,” she thought. But when she took him home six weeks later, the grim reality quickly set in. “Seeing him not able to speak or remember or even understand what I said to him — it was a very scary, lonely, uncertain time. What happened to my life? I had to make big decisions without Ted’s input. We had been in the process of selling our house in New Jersey, and now I also had to put our Illinois house on the market and sell two cars.” But those logistical problems were minor in comparison to the steep learning curve she endured trying to figure out how to cope with an adult she loved whose brain had suddenly become completely scrambled. He could not talk, struggled to understand what was said to him, and for a long time had limited use of the right side of his body. “One of the biggest stumbling blocks for caregivers is knowledge,” said Dr. Richard C. Senelick, author of “Living With Stroke: A Guide for Families.” His advice is to learn everything you can about stroke, your loved one’s condition and prognosis. “The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to care for your loved one,” he said. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26397 - Posted: 07.08.2019

By Sabine Galvis Scientists looking for a link between repeated brain trauma and lasting neurological damage typically study the brains of soldiers or football players. But it’s unclear whether this damage—known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—is prevalent in the general population. Now, a new study reports those rates for the first time. To conduct the research, neuropathologist Kevin Bieniek, then at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues sorted through nearly 3000 brains donated to the clinic's tissue registry between 2005 and 2016. Then, by scanning obituaries and old yearbooks, the researchers narrowed the group to 300 athletes who played contact sports and 450 nonathletes. The scientists removed all infants under age 1, brain samples with insufficient tissue, and brain donors without biographical data attached to their samples. Finally, they collected medical records and looked under a microscope at tissue from up to three sections of each brain for signs of CTE. Those signs include lesions and buildup of tau, a protein associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Six percent of the brains showed some or all signs of CTE, Bieniek and his colleagues report in Brain Pathology. Not all the people experienced symptoms associated with CTE, at least according to their medical records. Those symptoms include anxiety, depression, and drug use. However, people with CTE were about 31% more likely to develop dementia and 27% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those without CTE. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26388 - Posted: 07.04.2019

By Ryan Dalton In the dystopian world of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government of Oceania aims to achieve thought control through the restriction of language. As explained by the character ‘Syme’, a lexicologist who is working to replace the English language with the greatly-simplified ‘Newspeak’: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” While Syme’s own reflections were short-lived, the merits of his argument were not: the words and structure of a language can influence the thoughts and decisions of its speakers. This holds for English and Greek, Inuktitut and Newspeak. It also may hold for the ‘neural code’, the basic electrical vocabulary of the neurons in the brain. Neural codes, like spoken languages, are tasked with conveying all manner of information. Some of this information is immediately required for survival; other information has a less acute use. To accommodate these different needs, a balance is struck between the richness of information being transferred and the speed or reliability with which it is transferred. Where the balance is set depends on context. In the example of language, the mention of the movie Jaws at a dinner party might result in a ranging and patient—if disconcerting—discussion around the emotional impact of the film. In contrast, the observation of a dorsal fin breaking through the surf at the beach would probably elicit a single word, screamed by many beachgoers at once: “shark!” In one context, the language used has been optimized for richness; in the other, for speed and reliability. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26383 - Posted: 07.03.2019

By Bret Stetka The pathology of a stroke is deceptively complicated. In the simplest sense, strokes occur when the blood supply to a particular region of the brain is interrupted, cutting off the area to oxygen and nutrients. This deprivation results in injury and death to the local brain cells. But for days after the breach in blood flow, the immune system also does its own fair share of damage to the already injured brain through an inflammatory response. New research by a group at Stanford University has identified a subset of immune cells that drive brain injury following a stroke, raising the possibility that immune-system inhibition might be a promising treatment for a blood-deprived brain. More surprising is that much of the immune reaction to a stroke appears to begin in the gut, shedding new light on our ever evolving understanding of the gut-brain axis. The research was published on July 1 in Nature Immunology. Strokes manifest in two ways: either an artery in the brain bursts—causing a hemorrhagic stroke—or it becomes clogged, typically by a blood clot, causing the far more common ischemic stroke. In the new study, the authors used positron-emission tomography to scan immune system activity in mice that had the blood in a single cerebral artery interrupted for 45 minutes, mimicking an ischemic stroke. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Stroke; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 26381 - Posted: 07.03.2019

By Jane E. Brody Strange as it may seem, the massive stroke Ted Baxter suffered in 2005 at age 41, leaving him speechless and paralyzed on his right side, was a blessing in more ways than one. Had the clot, which started in his leg, lodged in his lungs instead of his brain, the doctors told him he would have died from a pulmonary embolism. And as difficult as it was for him to leave his high-powered professional life behind and replace it with a decade of painstaking recovery, the stroke gave his life a whole new and, in many ways, more rewarding purpose. Before the stroke, Mr. Baxter’s intense work-focused life as a globe-trotting executive in international finance had eroded his marriage and deprived him of fulfilling relationships with family and friends. Unable to relax even on vacation, he rarely took time to smell the roses. Now, he told me, he leads a richer, calmer, happier life as a volunteer educator for stroke victims and their caregivers and for the therapists who treat them. The stroke began with a cramping pain in his leg after a long international flight during which he wore compression hose to support his varicose veins. He didn’t take the pain seriously until suddenly he couldn’t talk or move the right side of his body. The clot that caused his leg pain had broken loose and cut off blood flow to the left side of his brain. From the team at NYT Parenting: Get the latest news and guidance for parents. We'll celebrate the little parenting moments that mean a lot — and share stories that matter to families. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26371 - Posted: 07.01.2019

/ By Dan Falk Suppose I give you the name of a body part, and ask you to list its main uses: I say legs, you say walking and running; I say ears, you say hearing. And if I say the brain? Well, that’s a no-brainer (so to speak); obviously the brain is for thinking. Of course, it does a bunch of other things, too; after all, when the brain ceases to function, we die — but clearly it’s where cognition happens. Tversky argues that gesturing is more than just a by-product of speech: it literally helps us think. Or is it? No one would argue that the brain isn’t vital for thinking — but quite a few 21st-century psychologists and cognitive scientists believe that the body, as well as the brain, is needed for thinking to actually happen. And it’s not just that the brain needs a body to keep it alive (that much is obvious), but rather, that the brain and the body somehow work together: it’s the combination of brain-plus-body that creates the mental world. The latest version of this proposition comes from Barbara Tversky, a professor emerita of psychology at Stanford University who also teaches at Columbia. Her new book, “Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought,” is an extended argument for the interplay of mind and body in enabling cognition. She draws on many different lines of evidence, including the way we talk about movement and space, the way we use maps, the way we talk about and use numbers, and the way we gesture. Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Language; Attention
Link ID: 26364 - Posted: 06.28.2019

Laura Sanders When animals are together, their brain activity aligns. These simpatico signals, described in bats and mice, bring scientists closer to understanding brains as they normally exist — enmeshed in complex social situations. Researchers know that neural synchrony emerges in people who are talking, taking a class together and even watching the same movie. But scientists tend to study human brains in highly constrained scenarios, in part because it’s technologically difficult to capture brain activity as people experience rich social interactions (SN: 5/11/19, p. 4). Now two studies published June 20 in Cell offer more details about how synced brains might influence social behavior. In one study, researchers monitored a pair of Egyptian fruit bats in a dark chamber for more than an hour. Neural implants recorded brain activity as the bats groomed themselves, fought, rested and performed other behaviors. The brain activity of the two bats was highly coordinated. When one bat’s neural activity oscillated in a fast rhythm, for example, the other bat’s brain was likely to do the same thing. This coordination continued even when the bats weren’t directly interacting with each other, the team found. But when the bats were separated into two chambers in the same room, this correlated activity fell away, suggesting that the bats had to be sharing the same social context for their brains to link up. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 26345 - Posted: 06.22.2019

By Darcey Steinke The J in “juice” was the first letter-sound, according to my mother, that I repeated in staccato, going off like a skipping record. This was when I was 3, before my stutter was stigmatized as shameful. In those earliest years my relationship to language was uncomplicated: I assumed my voice was more like a bird’s or a squirrel’s than my playmates’. This seemed exciting. I imagined, unlike fluent children, I might be able to converse with wild creatures, I’d learn their secrets, tell them mine and forge friendships based on interspecies intimacy. School put an end to this fantasy. Throughout elementary school I stuttered every time a teacher called on me and whenever I was asked to read out loud. In the third grade the humiliation of being forced to read a few paragraphs about stewardesses in the Weekly Reader still burns. The ST is hard for stutterers. What would have taken a fluent child five minutes took me an excruciating 25. It was around this time that I started separating the alphabet into good letters, V as well as M, and bad letters, S, F and T, plus the terrible vowel sounds, open and mysterious and nearly impossible to wrangle. Each letter had a degree of difficulty that changed depending upon its position in the sentence. Much later when I read that Nabokov as a child assigned colors to letters, it made sense to me that the hard G looked like “vulcanized rubber” and the R, “a sooty rag being ripped.” My beloved V, in the Nabokovian system, was a jewel-like “rose quartz.” My mother, knowing that kids ridiculed me — she once found a book, “The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot,” that had been tossed onto our lawn — wanted to eradicate my speech impediment. She encouraged me to practice the strategies taught to me by a string of therapists, bouncing off an easy sound to a harder one and unclenching my throat, trying to slide out of a stammer. When I was 13 she got me a scholarship to a famous speech therapy program at a college near our house in Virginia. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26313 - Posted: 06.10.2019

By Malin Fezehai Muazzez Kocek, 46, is considered one of the best whistlers in Kuşköy, a village tucked away in the picturesque Pontic Mountains in Turkey’s northern Giresun province. Her whistle can be heard over the area’s vast tea fields and hazelnut orchards, several miles farther than a person’s voice. When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visited Kuşköy in 2012, she greeted him and proudly whistled, “Welcome to our village!” She uses kuş dili, or “bird language,” which transforms the full Turkish vocabulary into varied-pitch frequencies and melodic lines. For hundreds of years, this whistled form of communication has been a critical for the farming community in the region, allowing complex conversations over long distances and facilitating animal herding. Today, there are about 10,000 people in the larger region that speak it, but because of the increased use of cellphones, which remove the need for a voice to carry over great distances, that number is dwindling. The language is at risk of dying out. Of Ms. Kocek’s three children, only her middle daughter, Kader, 14, knows bird language. Ms. Kocek began learning bird language at six years old, by working in the fields with her father. She has tried to pass the tradition on to her three daughters; even though they understand it, only her middle child, Kader Kocek, 14, knows how to speak, and can whistle Turkey’s national anthem. Turkey is one of a handful of countries in the world where whistling languages exist. Similar ways of communicating are known to have been used in the Canary Islands, Greece, Mexico, and Mozambique. They fascinate researchers and linguistic experts, because they suggest that the brain structures that process language are not as fixed as once thought. There is a long-held belief that language interpretation occurs mostly in the left hemisphere, and melody, rhythm and singing on the right. But a study that biopsychologist Onur Güntürkün conducted in Kuşköy, suggests that whistling language is processed in both hemispheres. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26279 - Posted: 05.30.2019

Laura Sanders Advantages of speaking a second language are obvious: easier logistics when traveling, wider access to great literature and, of course, more people to talk with. Some studies have also pointed to the idea that polyglots have stronger executive functioning skills, brain abilities such as switching between tasks and ignoring distractions. But a large study of bilingual children in the U.S. finds scant evidence of those extra bilingual brain benefits. Bilingual children performed no better in tests measuring such thinking skills than children who knew just one language, researchers report May 20 in Nature Human Behaviour. To look for a relationship between bilingualism and executive function, researchers relied on a survey of U.S. adolescents called the ABCD study. From data collected at 21 research sites across the country, researchers identified 4,524 kids ages 9 and 10. Of these children, 1,740 spoke English and a second language (mostly Spanish, though 40 second languages were represented). On three tests that measured executive function, such as the ability to ignore distractions or quickly switch between tasks with different rules, the bilingual children performed similarly to children who spoke only English, the researchers found. “We really looked,” says study coauthor Anthony Dick, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Florida International University in Miami said. “We didn’t find anything.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26265 - Posted: 05.24.2019

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online Patients who have had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain can safely take aspirin to cut their risk of future strokes and heart problems, according to a new study. Aspirin thins the blood and so doctors have been cautious about giving it, fearing it could make bleeds worse. But The Lancet research suggests it does not increase the risk of new brain bleeds, and may even lower it. Experts say the "strong indication" needs confirming with more research. Only take daily aspirin if your doctor recommends it, they advise. Aspirin benefits and risks Aspirin is best known as a painkiller and is sometimes also taken to help bring down a fever. But daily low-dose (75mg) aspirin is used to make the blood less sticky and can help to prevent heart attacks and stroke. Most strokes are caused by clots in the blood vessels of the brain but some are caused by bleeds. Because aspirin thins the blood, it can sometimes make the patient bleed more easily. And aspirin isn't safe for everyone. It can also cause indigestion and, more rarely, lead to stomach ulcers. Never give aspirin to children under the age of 16 (unless their doctor prescribes it). It can make children more likely to develop a very rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome (which can cause liver and brain damage). The study The research involved 537 people from across the UK who had had a brain bleed while taking anti-platelet medicines, to stop blood clotting, including aspirin, dipyridamole or another drug called clopidogrel. Half of the patients were chosen at random to continue on their medicine (following a short pause immediately after their brain bleed), while the other half were told to stop taking it Over the five years of the study, 12 of those who kept taking the tablets suffered a brain bleed, compared with 23 of those who stopped © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26263 - Posted: 05.23.2019