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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

Expensive medicines can seem to create worse side-effects than cheaper alternatives, suggests a new study that looked at the "nocebo" effect of drugs. The opposite of the placebo effect — perceived improvement when no active medicine is given — nocebo is the perception of negative side-effects from a benign "medication" in a blind trial. These findings about nocebo effects could help improve the design of clinical trials that test new medications, said Dr. Luana Colloca, who wrote a journal commentary about the study. "The main information for patients is that they should be aware that sometimes our brain … reacts as a result of our beliefs and expectations," said Colloca, a pain researcher at University of Maryland School of Nursing. fMRI Researchers used a functional MRI scanner to identify areas along the spinal cord that became activated during the nocebo effect. (Alexandra Tinnermann and Tim Dretzler/University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf) The study, published recently in the journal Science, focused on the pain perceptions of patients who were treated with creams they believed had anti-itch properties but actually contained no active ingredients. Researchers in Germany studied 49 people, randomly assigning some to receive a "cheap" cream and others to receive an "expensive" cream. Those in the expensive group received cream packaged in a colourful box labelled Solestan Creme. The others received cream packaged in a drab box labelled with the more generic sounding name Imotadil-LeniPharma Creme. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24218 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Daisy Grewal Despite its importance for health and well-being, many American adults find it difficult to consistently get enough sleep. Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep disturbances are particularly common in older adults and involve a variety of problems including difficulties falling or staying asleep, interrupted breathing, and restless leg syndrome. A person’s racial background can influence their likelihood of developing a sleep disorder, with a greater number of African Americans reporting sleep disturbances compared to White Americans. Beyond its effects on health, not getting enough sleep can lead to car accidents, medical errors, or other mistakes on the job. To encourage better sleep, the medical community encourages adults to engage in good “sleep hygiene” such as limiting or avoiding caffeine and nicotine, avoiding naps during the day, turning off electronics an hour before bed, exercising, and practicing relaxation before bedtime. It is also well-known that mental health is closely linked to sleep; insomnia is more common in people suffering from depression or anxiety. A recent study now raises the possibility that sleep could be affected by the degree to which someone feels like their life is purposeful or meaningful. Arlener Turner, Christine Smith, and Jason Ong of the Northwestern University School of Medicine found that people who reported having a greater sense of purpose in life also reported getting better sleep – even when taking into consideration age, gender, race, and level of education. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sleep; Attention
Link ID: 24217 - Posted: 10.19.2017

Amy Maxmen For the first time, researchers have cured the deadly neurological disease sleeping sickness using pills instead of a combination of intravenous infusions and pills. The investigators presented the results from final clinical trials on 17 October at the European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Antwerp, Belgium, providing hope that the treatment will help to eliminate the malady within a decade. The oral therapy — called fexinidazole — cured 91% of people with severe sleeping sickness, compared with 98% who were treated with the combination therapy. It also cured 99% of people in an early stage of the disease who would typically undergo a spinal tap, to determine whether they needed infusions. The relative ease of the treatment with fexinidazole means that if approved, it might save more lives than the current option, say the investigators leading the phase 3 trial, the final phase of testing before the drug goes to regulators for approval. Sleeping sickness is endemic to Africa and generally infects extremely poor people who live in remote regions. The sick often suffer from the disease for years before seeking treatment, causing them and those caring for them to miss work and spend their savings on traditional medicines. Trekking to a hospital and remaining there for intravenous infusions is costly as well. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24216 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Lack of sleep may raise the risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes — abnormally high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy — can lead to excessive birth weight, preterm birth or respiratory distress in the baby, among other problems. It can also increase the mother’s risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Researchers pooled data from eight studies involving 17,595 women. Seven of the studies depended on self-reports of sleep, and one measured sleep duration. After adjusting for variables such as age, body mass index and ethnicity, they found that women who slept less than 6.25 hours a night were almost three times as likely to have gestational diabetes as those who slept more. The study is in Sleep Medicine Reviews. The reasons for the link are not known, but the authors suggest that hormonal changes in pregnancy as well as systematic inflammation tied to lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels. But the study is observational and does not prove a causal relationship between poor sleep and gestational diabetes. “Minimizing sleep disruption is important — limiting caffeine, avoiding electronics at bedtime and so on,” said the lead author, Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s another factor that may influence overall health. But it’s easier said than done.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24215 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Karen Weintraub Each time health care workers grab a pint of blood for an emergency transfusion, they make sure the donor and recipient have compatible blood types. But they do not pay attention to the donor’s sex. A new study raises questions as to whether that should change. In the first large study to look at how blood transfusions from previously pregnant women affect recipients’ health, researchers discovered men under 50 were 1.5 times more likely to die in the three years following a transfusion if they received a red blood cell transfusion from a woman donor who had ever been pregnant. This amounts to a 2 percent increase in overall mortality each year. Female recipients, however, did not appear to face an elevated risk. The study of more than 42,000 transfusion patients in the Netherlands was published Tuesday in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. The American Red Cross and the researchers themselves were quick to say the study is not definitive enough to change the current practice of matching red blood cell donors to recipients. But if this explosive finding is confirmed with future studies, it could transform the way blood is matched—and it would suggest millions of transfusion patients worldwide have died prematurely. “If this turns out to be the truth, it’s both biologically interesting and extremely clinically relevant,” says Gustaf Edgren, an expert who was not involved in the study but co-wrote an editorial about it. “We certainly need to find out what’s going on.” Edgren, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute and a hematologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, says his own research suggests the donor’s sex makes no difference to the transfused patient. “Our data is really not compatible with this finding,” he says. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24214 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Alice Klein A protein injection that decreases appetite helps obese monkeys to slim down fast and cuts their risk of diabetes. Excitement is growing about a protein called GDF15, which naturally regulates body weight in humans and animals. When extra amounts are injected into mice, they eat less, lose weight and have fewer signs of diabetes. Several research teams have tried developing GDF15 as an obesity treatment, but it breaks down too quickly in the bloodstream to work. Now a team led by Murielle Véniant at pharmaceutical company Amgen has found a way to make GDF15 last longer in the body. The team added an antibody fragment onto GDF15. Antibodies are immune proteins that help recognise foreign molecules in the body. They found that this hybrid protein caused obese monkeys to eat about 40 per cent less. When given weekly injections, the monkeys lost 10 per cent of their body weight over 6 weeks. Their glucose tolerance also improved, making them less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. In comparison, the five obesity medications that are currently approved by the FDA for long-term weight management help patients to lose an average of 7 to 12 per cent of their body weight over the course of a year. Bariatric surgery – the gold standard for weight loss – usually results in 20 to 30 per cent weight loss in obese patients in the first year, but is expensive and can have complications and side-effects. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24213 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Virginia Morell Many wild bees prefer flowers in the violet-blue range—in part because these blossoms tend to produce high volumes of nectar. But it’s not easy for plants to produce blue flowers. Instead, a new study shows that many have evolved “blue halos” to allure bees, nanoscale structures on their petals that produce a blue glow when light hits them. The blue halo is created by tiny, irregular striations—usually lined up in parallel fashion—and is found in all major groups of flowering plants pollinated by insects, the scientists report today in Nature. They made their find by using scanning electron microscopy to examine every type of angiosperm—or flowering plant—including grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees. The size and spacing of the nanoscale structures vary greatly, yet they all generate a blue or ultraviolet (UV) scattering effect particularly noticeable to bees, which have enhanced photoreceptor activity in the blue-UV parts of the spectrum. The scientists tested this attraction by exposing bumble bees to artificial flowers with three surfaces: smooth, iridescent, and striated to produce the blue halo. Despite the color of the flower, the bees preferred those with the blue halo. For us humans, the blue halo effect is most visible on flowers with dark pigments (like the South African Ursinia speciosa above), but not on lighter colored blooms. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24212 - Posted: 10.19.2017

Laura Sanders Hydrogen peroxide, a molecule produced by cells under duress, may be a common danger signal, helping to alert animals to potential harm and send them scurrying. New details from planarian flatworms of how this process works may deepen scientists’ understanding of how people detect pain, and may ultimately point to better ways to curb it. “Being able to get a big-picture view of how these systems are built and what they’re cuing in on is always really helpful,” says biologist Paul Garrity of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. And by finding cellular similarities among planarians, fruit flies and people, the new study, published online October 16 in Nature Neuroscience, provides hints about how this threat-detecting system might have operated hundreds of millions of years ago. The results center on a protein called TRPA1, a well-known pain detector in people. Embedded in the outside of cells, TRPA1 helps many different animals detect (and ultimately escape) harmful chemicals, physical injuries and extreme temperatures. In humans, mutations in the TRPA1 gene can cause syndromes marked by intense pain. But scientists have puzzled over TRPA1’s seemingly inconsistent behavior in different animals. In Caenorhabditis elegans worms, for instance, the protein is activated by cold. But in other animals such as mosquitoes, TRPA1 is activated by heat. “The more people started looking at activation of TRPA1 in different species, the more the puzzle became complicated,” says study coauthor Marco Gallio of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Evolution
Link ID: 24211 - Posted: 10.18.2017

By Alice Klein Four genes have been identified that are linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The genes all play a role in the same brain circuit, and may help explain why people are more likely to have OCD if they have a relative with the condition. People with OCD have intrusive thoughts and feel driven to repeat rituals, such as handwashing, to relieve their anxiety. To investigate if OCD has a genetic basis, Hyun Ji Noh at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and her colleagues compared more than 600 genes across 592 people with OCD, and 560 people who don’t have it. They chose these candidate genes from several lines of evidence. Of these genes, 222 had been linked to compulsive grooming in mice, and 196 had been linked to autism in people – a condition that can involve repetitive behaviours. The team also looked at 56 genes that they had identified in a study of dogs with canine compulsive disorder, a condition in which dogs repeatedly chase their tails, pace back and forth, groom themselves or sucks things, sometimes for hours at a time. Brain safety circuit The analysis identified four genes that are different in people who have OCD. All four of these are active in a brain circuit that links the striatum, thalamus and cortex regions. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24210 - Posted: 10.18.2017

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

Tina Hesman Saey Fungi may affect gut health in unexpected ways, new research suggests. High-fat diets may alter relationships between bacteria and fungi in mice’s intestines, contributing to obesity, researchers report October 11 in mSphere. In independent work, researchers report that a fungus teams up with two types of bacteria to fuel gut inflammation in people with Crohn’s disease. That work was summarized October 4 in Digestive and Liver Disease. Together, the studies are part of a growing body of research indicating that relationships between the bacterial and fungal kingdoms can affect health, says David Andes, a fungal biologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. Andes wasn’t involved in either study. Scientists have already described links between health issues, including obesity, and gut bacteria — often called the microbiome. But far less is known about the role of the gut’s fungal mix, or mycobiome. “To get the whole picture,” says Andes, “we’re going to need to start looking at the mycobiome in addition to the microbiome.” As part of that picture, fungal biologist and pediatrician Cheryl Gale of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis wanted to know whether high-fat diets change fungal communities as they do bacterial mixes. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24207 - Posted: 10.18.2017

Nell Greenfieldboyce In a small, windowless room at Johns Hopkins University, pigtail macaques jump around in cages. The braver ones reach out between the metal bars to accept pieces of apricot with their long fingers. In one cage, a monkey hangs back in the corner. At first it looks like he's all alone in there, until veterinarian Bob Adams points out, "No, he's got a friend." Another monkey is clinging to his back, almost hidden. Not too long ago, these guys wouldn't have had a pal to hold on to. Like humans, monkeys are social animals. But for two decades, researchers here routinely put animals in separate cages after experimentally infecting them with a monkey form of HIV. The concern was that cagemates might swap viruses and mess up the science. Then, a few years ago, Adams urged the research team to try pairing up the animals. It's worked out great, and now each cage houses two buddies. "Part of the realization that people are coming to is not just that it's not a problem, but that it actually helps to improve the science," says Kelly Metcalf Pate, who uses these monkeys to study how HIV can evade treatment. Loneliness can suppress the immune system, Pate notes, and being alone is not what most infected humans experience. "The majority of patients, regardless of disease that we're looking at, aren't living in isolation," she says. But many lab monkeys do live in cages alone. Last year, 109,821 primates were held in research facilities across the United States, according to data collected by the government. Some of those animals were kept for breeding or other non-experimental purposes, but the majority were used to study everything from cancer to diabetes to addiction. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24206 - Posted: 10.18.2017

By Michael Price Good luck finding a legislative issue more controversial than gun violence—at least in the United States. Compounding the controversy is a dearth of reliable data, thanks largely to a de facto ban on federally funded firearms research enacted in 1996. Yet a new study funded by Harvard Business School suggests that one policy—a mandatory waiting period between the sale of a gun and its delivery—could save hundreds of U.S. lives each year if implemented nationally. “Absolutely, this study demonstrates a robust association between waiting periods and gun deaths,” says Margaret Formica, a public health researcher at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse who studies firearms deaths but wasn’t involved in the new work. “It’s an innovative way of looking at this issue.” More than 33,000 Americans die each year in gun-related incidents, including accidents, homicides, and suicides, about as many as in vehicle accidents. But regulations that place limits on the sale and ownership of firearms vary widely from state to state, and it’s unclear which measures might actually prevent gun violence. Some research from other countries has suggested that a “cooling off” period between the sale and delivery of a gun can tamp down suicidal impulses and anger-driven violence. So when Harvard University researchers were motivated to contribute to policy-relevant gun research in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, such “waiting periods” were an easy jumping-off point. Not only was there past research, but data on waiting-period laws are relatively easy to track down. “Instead of saying, ‘Isn’t it a tragedy, children are dying, oh well, on to the next meeting,’ we decided we wanted to do something,” says Deepak Malhotra, a negotiation and conflict resolution researcher who co-authored the new study with economist Michael Luca. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24205 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Jon Hamilton Brain imaging studies have a diversity problem. That's what researchers concluded after they re-analyzed data from a large study that used MRI to measure brain development in children from 3 to 18. Like most brain imaging studies of children, this one included a disproportionate number of kids who have highly educated parents with relatively high household incomes, the team reported Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. For example, parents of study participants were three times more likely than typical U.S. parents to hold an advanced degree. And participants' family incomes were much more likely to exceed $100,000 a year. So the researchers decided to see whether the results would be different if the sample represented the U.S. population, says Kaja LeWinn, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. "We were able to weight that data so it looked more like the U.S." in terms of race, income, education and other variables, she says. And when the researchers did that, the picture of "normal" brain development changed dramatically. For instance, when the sample reflected the U.S. population, children's brains reached several development milestones much earlier. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Brain imaging; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24204 - Posted: 10.17.2017

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA In the days after his son was born, Rob Sandler found the thrill of becoming a new father replaced with dark feelings of dread and hopelessness. Those feelings, coupled with sleep deprivation and stress, culminated in a panic attack during his son’s bris. As a group of old friends was saying goodbye after the ceremony, “I had this feeling that they were leaving and I was stuck in this situation that would never get any better,” said Mr. Sandler, a marketing executive in Dallas. “I just felt trapped.” What followed was months of sadness, anxiety and — perhaps most worrisome of all — a feeling of acute disappointment in his own ability to be a good parent. In recent years, a growing body of research, and the increasing visibility of dads like Mr. Sandler, has given rise to the idea that you don’t have to give birth to develop postpartum depression, the so-called “baby blues.” Studies suggest that the phenomenon may occur in from 7 percent to 10 percent of new fathers, compared to about 12 percent of new mothers, and that depressed dads were more likely to spank their children and less likely to read to them. Now, a University of Southern California study has found a link between depression and sagging testosterone levels in new dads, adding physiological weight to the argument that postpartum depression isn’t just for women anymore. The study also found that while high testosterone levels in new dads helped protect against depression in fathers, it correlated with an increased risk of depression in new moms. “We know men get postpartum depression, and we know testosterone drops in new dads, but we don’t know why,” said Darby Saxbe, a professor of psychology at U.S.C. and an author of the new report. “It’s often been suggested hormones underlie some of the postpartum depression in moms, but there’s been so much less attention paid to fathers. We were trying to put together the pieces to solve this puzzle.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24203 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Katharina Kropshofer Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play. That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species’ brain, the more complex – indeed, the more “human-like” – their lives are likely to be. This suggests that the “cultural brain hypothesis” – the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups – may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans. Writing in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers claim that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animals’ brains – a process known as encephalisation. The researchers gathered records of dolphins playing with humpback whales, helping fishermen with their catches, and even producing signature whistles for dolphins that are absent – suggesting the animals may even gossip. Another common behaviour was adult animals raising unrelated young. “There is the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans,” said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 24202 - Posted: 10.17.2017

By HEATHER MURPHY Can a fish be depressed? This question has been floating around my head ever since I spent a night in a hotel across from an excruciatingly sad-looking Siamese fighting fish. His name was Bruce Lee, according to a sign beneath his little bowl. There we were trying to enjoy a complimentary bloody mary on the last day of our honeymoon and there was Bruce Lee, totally still, his lower fin grazing the clear faux rocks on the bottom of his home. When he did finally move, just slightly, I got the sense that he would prefer to be dead. The pleasant woman at the front desk assured me that he was well taken care of. Was I simply anthropomorphizing Bruce Lee, incorrectly assuming his lethargy was a sign of mental distress? When I sought answers from scientists, I assumed that they would find the question preposterous. But they did not. Not at all. It turns out that not only can our gilled friends become depressed, but some scientists consider fish to be a promising animal model for developing anti-depressants. New research, I would learn, has been radically shifting the way that scientists think about fish cognition, building a case that pet and owner are not nearly as different as many assume. “The neurochemistry is so similar that it’s scary,” said Julian Pittman, a professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University in Alabama, where he is working to develop new medications to treat depression, with the help of tiny zebrafish. We tend to think of them as simple organisms, “but there is a lot we don’t give fish credit for.” Dr. Pittman likes working with fish, in part, because they are so obvious about their depression. He can reliably test the effectiveness of antidepressants with something called the “novel tank test.” A zebrafish gets dropped in a new tank. If after five minutes it is hanging out in the lower half, it’s depressed. If it’s swimming up top — its usual inclination when exploring a new environment — then it’s not. In Dr. Pittman’s lab, researchers induce depression in a fish by keeping it drunk on ethanol for two weeks, then cutting off the supply, forcing it into withdrawal. This here is a depressed fish. Both clips, which represent a small segment of the five minute tank test, were extracted at comparable speeds. Troy University © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Evolution
Link ID: 24201 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Jules Montague Steve Thomas and I are talking about brain implants. Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For a Hero is playing in the background and for a moment I almost forget that a disease has robbed Steve of his speech. The conversation breaks briefly; now I see his wheelchair, his ventilator, his hospital bed. Steve, a software engineer, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neurone disease) aged 50. He knew it was progressive and incurable; that he would soon become unable to move and, in his case, speak. He is using eye-gaze technology to tell me this (and later to turn off the sound of Bonnie Tyler); cameras pick up light reflection from his eye as he scans a screen. Movements of his pupils are translated into movements of a cursor through infrared technology and the cursor chooses letters or symbols. A speech-generating device transforms these written words into spoken ones – and, in turn, sentences and stories form. Eye-gaze devices allow some people with limited speech or hand movements to communicate, use environmental controls, compose music, and paint. That includes patients with ALS – up to 80% have communication difficulties, cerebral palsy, strokes, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. It’s a far cry from Elle editor-in-chief Jean-Dominique Bauby, locked-in by a stroke in 1995, painstakingly blinking through letters on an alphabet board. His memoir, written at one word every two minutes, later became a film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Although some still use low-tech options (not everyone can meet the physical or cognitive requirements for eye-gaze systems; occasionally, locked-in patients can blink but cannot move their eyes), speech-to-text and text-to-speech functionality on smartphones and tablets has revolutionised communication. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Robotics
Link ID: 24200 - Posted: 10.16.2017