Chapter 19. Language and Lateralization

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By CHRISTOPHER MELE A persistent noise of unknown origin, sometimes compared to a truck idling or distant thunder, has bedeviled a Canadian city for years, damaging people’s health and quality of life, numerous residents say. Those who hear it have compared it to a fleet of diesel engines idling next to your home or the pulsation of a subwoofer at a concert. Others report it rattling their windows and spooking their pets. Known as the Windsor Hum, this sound in Windsor, Ontario, near Detroit, is unpredictable in its duration, timing and intensity, making it all the more maddening for those affected. “You know how you hear of people who have gone out to secluded places to get away from certain sounds or noises and the like?” Sabrina Wiese posted in a private Facebook group dedicated to finding the source of the noise. “I’ve wanted to do that many times in the past year or so because it has gotten so bad,” she wrote. “Imagine having to flee all you know and love just to have a chance to hear nothing humming in your head for hours on end.” Since reports of it surfaced in 2011, the hum has been studied by the Canadian government, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Windsor. Activists have done their own sleuthing. Over six years, Mike Provost of Windsor, who helps run the Facebook page, has amassed more than 4,000 pages of daily observations about the duration, intensity and characteristics of the sound and the weather conditions at the time. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hearing; Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24681 - Posted: 02.19.2018

Nicola Davis Adults who have experienced a stroke may one day be able to take a drug to help their brain “rewire” itself, so that tasks once carried out by now-damaged areas can be taken over by other regions, researchers have claimed. The ability for the brain to rewire, so-called “brain plasticity”, is thought to occur throughout life; however, while children have a high degree of brain plasticity, adult brains are generally thought to be less plastic. Research looking at children and young adults who had a stroke as a baby – a situation thought to affect at least one in 4,000 around the time of their birth – has highlighted the incredible ability of the young brain to rewire. Elissa Newport, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University school of medicine in Washington DC, detailed a new study involving 12 such individuals, aged between 12 and 25. “What you see is the right hemisphere, which is never in control of language in anyone who is healthy, is apparently capable of taking over language if you lose left hemisphere,” said Newport, who presented the findings at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas. “This does not happen in adults,” she added. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 24679 - Posted: 02.19.2018

Laurel Hamers AUSTIN, Texas — Babies’ stroke-damaged brains can pull a mirror trick to recover. A stroke on the left side of the brain often damages important language-processing areas. But people who have this stroke just before or after birth recover their language abilities in the mirror image spot on the right side, a study of teens and young adults shows. Those patients all had normal language skills, even though as much as half of their brain had withered away, researchers reported February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Researchers so far have recruited 12 people ages 12 to 25 who had each experienced a stroke to the same region of their brain’s left hemisphere just before or after birth. People who have this type of stroke as adults often lose their ability to use and understand language, said study coauthor Elissa Newport, a neurology researcher at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. MRI scans of healthy siblings of the stroke patients showed activity in language centers in the left hemisphere of the brain when the participants heard speech. The stroke patients showed activity in the exact same areas — just on the opposite side of the brain. It’s well established that if an area of the brain gets damaged, other brain areas will sometimes compensate. But the new finding suggests that while young brains have an extraordinary capacity to recover, there might be limits on which areas can pinch-hit. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Laterality; Stroke
Link ID: 24678 - Posted: 02.19.2018

By Roni Dengler AUSTIN—Babies are as primed to learn a visual language as they are a spoken one. That’s the conclusion of research presented here today at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science. Parents and scientists know babies are learning sponges that can pick up any language they’re born into. But not as much is known about whether that includes visual language. To find out if infants are sensitive to visual language, Rain Bosworth, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, tracked 6-month-olds’ and 1-year-olds’ eye movements as they watched a video of a woman performing self-grooming gestures, such as tucking her hair behind her ear, and signing. The infants watched the signs 20% more than the 1-year-old children did. That means babies can distinguish between what’s language and what’s not, even when it’s not spoken, but 1-year-olds can’t. That’s consistent with what researchers know about how babies learn spoken language. Six-month-olds home in on their native language and lose sensitivity to languages they’re not exposed to, but by 12 months old that’s more or less gone, Bosworth says. The researchers also watched babies’ gazes as they observed a signer “fingerspelling,” spelling out words with individually signed letters. The signer executed the fingerspelling cleanly or sloppily. Again, researchers found the 6-month-old babies, who had never seen sign language before, favored the well-formed letters, whereas the 12-month-olds did not show a preference. Together that means there’s a critical developmental window for picking up even nonverbal languages. As 95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, they are at risk for developmental delays because they need that language exposure early on, the scientists say. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Language; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24672 - Posted: 02.17.2018

By GINA KOLATA A group of American diplomats stationed in Havana appear to have symptoms of concussion without ever having received blows to their heads, medical experts have found. The diplomats originally were said to have been victims of a “sonic attack,” a possibility that the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly ruled out in January. The experts’ report, published late Wednesday in the journal JAMA, does not solve the mystery, instead raising even more questions about what could have caused the brain injuries. The incidents occurred in 2016, when 18 of the 21 affected diplomats reported they heard strange sounds in their homes or hotel rooms. The noises were loud and sounded like buzzing or grinding metal, or piercing squeals or humming, the diplomats recalled. Many said they felt increased air pressure, as if they were riding in a car with the windows rolled partway down. Three diplomats said they felt a vibration. All but one reported immediate symptoms: headache, pain in one ear, loss of hearing. Days or weeks later, other symptoms emerged, including memory problems, an inability to concentrate, mood problems, headaches and fatigue. The State Department asked researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to investigate. Their report confirmed neurological problems in the diplomats, including signs of what appear to be concussions. “The study was conducted by the top concussion research team in the world utilizing state-of-the-art methods,” said C. Edward Dixon, a professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the research. The findings suggest “a significant brain insult,” he said. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24671 - Posted: 02.16.2018

By Richard Stone U.S. diplomats who fell ill in Cuba are victims of a new neurological syndrome, according to brain researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. But the team was unable to shed light on the malady’s mysterious cause, which the U.S. State Department has characterized as a “health attack.” From late 2016 through August 2017, as many as 24 U.S. citizens affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana reported symptoms ranging from vertigo and sleeplessness to cognitive impairment. Many described hearing loud or disconcerting sounds before the onset of symptoms, or pressure sensations in their ears akin to the baffling that occurs in a moving car with the windows cracked open. “They felt something weird going on,” and when they moved away from the perceived exposure, some of “the symptoms abated,” says Douglas Smith, director of Penn’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. The State Department called in the Penn group after initial examinations of diplomats at the University of Miami in Florida revealed persistent and inexplicable symptoms. The Penn team’s report on the diplomats’ health appears in today’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The coincidence of the diplomats’ impairment and the auditory phenomena fueled speculation they were victims of a “sonic attack.” Last summer, citing what it saw as Cuba’s inability to protect U.S. diplomats, the State Department pulled most of its personnel out of Cuba and expelled from the U.S. a corresponding number of Cuban diplomats. The Cuban government has denied knowledge of an attack and has cooperated with the U.S. investigation, which is being spearheaded by the FBI. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24670 - Posted: 02.16.2018

Blood-thinning drugs may increase rather than cut the risk of stroke in some people over 65 who have an irregular heartbeat and also chronic kidney disease, according to a new study. The researchers are calling on doctors to be more cautious in prescribing the drugs, called anticoagulants, until there has been more research. Research led by scientists at University College London highlights the problems with polypharmacy – the use of multiple drugs for people with more than one health issue. Older people are especially likely to be on medication for more than one complaint. The researchers enrolled nearly 7,000 patients who had chronic kidney disease and were then diagnosed with atrial fibrillation – the most common form of irregular heartbeat. It affects at least 33.5 million people over the age of 55 worldwide and accounts for 1% of the NHS health budget in the UK. Chronic kidney disease is also common, says the paper in the British Medical Journal, affecting 10-15% of adults. A third also have atrial fibrillation. About half a million people in the UK have both conditions and could be prescribed blood-thinning drugs. The researchers monitored the participants, half of whom were on blood-thinning drugs and half not, for 506 days. They found those on the medication were 2.6 times as likely as those not on anticoagulants to have a stroke, and 2.4 times as likely to have a haemorrhage. There was not, however, an increased risk of death.

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 24668 - Posted: 02.16.2018

By SHEILA KAPLAN and KEN BELSON The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a long-awaited blood test to detect concussions in people and more quickly identify those with possible brain injuries. The test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, is also expected to reduce the number of people exposed to radiation through CT scans, or computed tomography scans, that detect brain tissue damage or intracranial lesions. If the blood test is adopted widely, it could eliminate the need for CT scans in at least a third of those with suspected brain injuries, the agency predicted. Concussion-related brain damage has become a particularly worrisome public health issue in many sports, especially football, affecting the ranks of professional athletes on down to the young children in Pop Warner leagues. Those concerns have escalated so far that it has led to a decline in children participating in tackle sports. “This is going to change the testing paradigm for suspected cases of concussion,” said Tara Rabin, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A. She noted that the agency had worked closely on the application with the Defense Department, which has wanted a diagnostic tool to evaluate wounded soldiers in combat zones. The Pentagon financed a 2,000-person clinical trial that led to the test’s approval. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 2.8 million visits to emergency rooms for traumatic brain injury-related conditions in 2013, the most recent year for which the numbers were available. Of these, nearly 50,000 people died. Most patients with suspected traumatic brain injury are evaluated using a neurological exam, followed by a CT scan. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24663 - Posted: 02.15.2018

By JOANNA KLEIN FEB. 13, 2018 If Cupid wanted to make two songbirds fall in love, he’d have better luck aiming at their brains. That’s because songbirds, which form lifelong mating pairs, have brain systems perfectly tuned to fit together. While you sort through the messages of admirers, deciding who to make your Valentine, consider finches. Young males in this family of feathered crooners learn the song of their father, perfect it and perform it as adults to attract a lifelong mate. It’s loud, elaborate and precise. With their songs they say “chirp, chirp — my brain is healthy, and my body is strong. That’s something you’re into, right?” A female finch also learns the songs of her father from a young age, but she doesn’t perform. She’s the critic. She analyzes every detail of a potential mate’s song, compares it to her father’s example and decides if this performer is one she’d like to keep around. If she detects a song is too simple or off in any way, she’ll have nothing to do with its performer. She’s very picky, as she should be, because the mate she chooses will help raise their young — till death do they part. Over the past decade, researchers looking into the chickpea-sized brains of finches have discovered that each sex uses what’s called its sound control system to convert sound waves to social messages and then use them to find mates, kind of how humans use vocal sounds to communicate. And while these systems are well-developed and finely tuned in both sexes of songbirds, the wiring is different. “The biggest difference between male and female brains of the same species is found in songbirds,” said Sarah Woolley, a neuroscientist who studies finches at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. Dr. Woolley’s lab has been looking into the acoustic systems of zebra, bengalese and long-tailed finches to see how their brains take in and process sounds — learning, performing and analyzing different parts of them to make sense of songs. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24660 - Posted: 02.14.2018

by Alex Horton Michelle Myers's accent is global, but she has never left the country. The Arizona woman says she has gone to bed with extreme headaches in the past and woke up speaking with what sounds like a foreign accent. At various points, Australian and Irish accents have inexplicably flowed from her mouth for about two weeks, then disappeared, Myers says. But a British accent has lingered for two years, the 45-year-old Arizona woman told ABC affiliate KNXV. And one particular person seems to come to mind when she speaks. “Everybody only sees or hears Mary Poppins,” Myers told the station. Myers says she has been diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome. The disorder typically occurs after strokes or traumatic brain injuries damage the language center of a person's brain — to the degree that their native language sounds like it is tinged with a foreign accent, according to the Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas. In some instances, speakers warp the typical rhythm of their language and stress of certain syllables. Affected people may also cut out articles such as “the” and drop letters, turning an American “yeah” into a Scandinavian “yah,” for instance. Sheila Blumstein, a Brown University linguist who has written extensively on FAS, said sufferers typically produce grammatically correct language, unlike many stroke or brain-injury victims, she told The Washington Post for a 2010 article about a Virginia woman who fell down a stairwell, rattled her brain and awoke speaking with a Russian-like accent. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 24652 - Posted: 02.13.2018

Rachel Hoge I’ve heard the misconceptions for most of my life. “Just slow down,” a stranger told me as a child. “You’re talking too fast – that’s why you stutter!” Later on, as my stutter carried on into adolescence and adulthood, strangers and loved ones alike offered up their own judgments of my speech –usually incorrect. Some have good intentions when it comes to sharing their opinions about my stutter. Others ... not so much. But everyone shares one defining characteristic: they’re misinformed. Stuttering is a communication and disfluency disorder where the flow of speech is interrupted. Though all speakers will experience a small amount of disfluency while speaking, a person who stutters (PWS) experiences disfluency more noticeably, generally stuttering on at least 10% of their words. There are approximately 70 million people who stutter worldwide, which is about 1% of the population. Stuttering usually begins in childhood between the ages of two and five, with about 5% of all children experiencing a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of children who stutter will recover by late childhood, but those who don’t may develop a lifelong condition. The male-to-female ratio of people who stutter is four to one, meaning there is a clear gender discrepancy that scientists are still attempting to understand. The severity of a stutter can vary greatly. The way it manifests can also differ, depending on the individual. Certain sounds and syllables can produce repetitions (re-re-re-repetitions), prolongations (ppppppprolongations), and/or abnormal stoppages (no sound). © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 24647 - Posted: 02.12.2018

Menaka Wilhelm Karen Byrne's left hand sometimes operates on its own terms. It has unbuttoned shirts and stubbed out cigarettes, without her permission. Oh, and a few times, her own hand has slapped her across the face. This is a documented medical occurrence, not a premise for a Jim Carrey movie. The condition's name? Alien hand syndrome. Invisibilia featured Byrne and her alien hand last summer, and Giant Ant Studios recently created an otherworldly animation of Byrne's story. Byrne says she's gotten used to her left hand's new attitude, but alien hand syndrome is a pesky, strange condition. Imagine, as another patient has reported, sitting down to play the piano, only to have one hand levitate far above the piano keys as you try to practice. It's not that you've changed your mind; your goal is still to play a sonata. But that hand — still yours, and now also not yours — is obeying new directions, and you didn't come up with them consciously. For the pianist and Byrne, and many other cases, alien hand symptoms appears rooted in disruption of communication through the corpus callosum. That's the set of fibers that connects the right and left sides of the brain. The pianist's corpus callosum showed missing connections on an MRI, and Byrne's left hand developed its disobedience after a surgeon severed her corpus callosum in an operation to treat epileptic seizures. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Laterality; Consciousness
Link ID: 24643 - Posted: 02.10.2018

By Karl Gruber A. Fujiwara et al., “First report on the emergency dance of Apis cerana japonica, which induces odorous plant material collection in response to Vespa mandarinia japonica scouting,” Entomol Sci, doi:10.1111/ens.12285, 2017. The Waggle Dance Honeybees are famous for their waggle dances—figure-eight boogies that foragers use to inform nestmates about the locations of food or water. But entomologists were unclear about whether the dances could also be used to help ensure colony safety. Unwelcome Guests Ayumi Fujiwara, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues simulated wasp attacks on hives of the Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica) to test the bees’ response to danger. “Giant wasps attack the nests of honeybees to feed their brood in autumn. As a result, wasps may sometimes annihilate a whole honeybee colony,” she says. Dance Off The researchers found that the bees did use a waggle dance as a warning signal, but only in response to sightings of one wasp species, Vespa mandarinia japonica. “The hive entrance dance informs bees’ nestmates of a specific emergency and of the urgent necessity to collect odorous plant materials as a counterattack strategy,” Fujiwara says. The bees collect stinky plant materials, such as leaves from Nepalese smartweed (Persicaria nepalensis), and smear them at the hive entrance to deter the wasps. Decoding the Moves The information coded in this new waggle dance is not yet completely clear, notes Margaret Couvillon, a biologist and honeybee specialist at Virginia Tech. “What would be interesting to see is if there are any differences in the conveying of directional information in this defensive context versus the regular foraging context,” she says. “Nature tends to be parsimonious in finding solutions, so we might expect that the bees use a similar mechanism in these different situations.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Animal Communication; Aggression
Link ID: 24640 - Posted: 02.10.2018

Research into curious bright spots in the eyes on stroke patients’ brain images could one day alter the way these individuals are assessed and treated. A team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that a chemical routinely given to stroke patients undergoing brain scans can leak into their eyes, highlighting those areas and potentially providing insight into their strokes. The study was published in Neurology. “We were kind of astounded by this – it’s a very unrecognized phenomenon,” said Richard Leigh, M.D., an assistant clinical investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the paper’s senior author. “It raises the question of whether there is something we can observe in the eye that would help clinicians evaluate the severity of a stroke and guide us on how best to help patients.” The eyes glowed so brightly on those images due to gadolinium, a harmless, transparent chemical often given to patients during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to highlight abnormalities in the brain. In healthy individuals, gadolinium remains in the blood stream and is filtered out by the kidneys. However, when someone has experienced damage to the blood-brain barrier, which controls whether substances in the blood can enter the brain, gadolinium leaks into the brain, creating bright spots that mark the location of brain damage. Previous research had shown that certain eye diseases could cause a similar disruption to the blood-ocular barrier, which does for the eye what the blood-brain barrier does for the brain. Dr. Leigh’s team discovered that a stroke can also compromise the blood-ocular barrier and that the gadolinium that leaked into a patient’s eyes could provide information about his or her stroke.

Keyword: Stroke; Vision
Link ID: 24631 - Posted: 02.08.2018

By Brian Resnick Football isn’t just a contact sport — it’s a dangerous game of massive bodies colliding into one another. And while it may seem obvious that this sport can do extraordinary damage to brains and bodies, it’s taken far too long for the NFL, the medical community, and football fans to fully reckon with this. And there’s no question that the legacy — and persistent threat — of brain injuries will haunt this Sunday’s Super Bowl match between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots’ star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, was only cleared earlier this week for play after sustaining a concussion in the NFL Conference Championships win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 21. On game day, the NFL will have in place four concussion specialists around the field to ensure player safety. Even halftime performer Justin Timberlake told reporters his 3-year-old son will never play football, though it wasn’t entirely clear if he was joking. Doctors have learned a tremendous amount about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repeated hits to the head, since the first former NFL player was diagnosed with CTE in the early 2000s. Concern around the issue has only grown now that more than 100 former NFL players have received a postmortem diagnosis of CTE. All the evidence we now have about the very serious risk of brain injuries in football casts a dim light on the future of the sport.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24614 - Posted: 02.05.2018

By EMILY KELLY My husband, Rob Kelly, is a retired N.F.L. player. After five seasons as a safety beginning in the late 1990s, four with the New Orleans Saints and one with the New England Patriots, he sustained an injury to a nerve between his neck and shoulder during training camp that ended his career. By the time he retired in 2002 at 28, he had been playing tackle football for about two decades. Rob had no idea, however, that all those years of playing would have such serious consequences. Safeties are the last line of defense and among the hardest hitters in the game. One tackle he attempted while playing for the Saints was so damaging, he doesn’t remember the rest of the game. He got up, ran off the field and tried to go back in — as an offensive player. He knows this only because people told him the next day. Professional football is a brutal sport, he knew that. But he loved it anyway. And he accepted the risks of bruises and broken bones. What he didn’t know was that along with a battered body can come a battered mind. For decades, it was not well understood that football can permanently harm the brain. Otherwise, many parents would most likely not have signed their boys up to play. But this reality was obscured by the N.F.L.’s top medical experts, who for years had denied any link between the sport and long-term degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy. That started to change in late 2009 when, for the first time, the N.F.L. publicly acknowledged that concussions can have long-term effects. In 2016, a top league official admitted that there is a connection between football and C.T.E., which has now been found in the brains of more than 100 deceased players. But for Rob, and countless other players, those admissions came too late. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24613 - Posted: 02.05.2018

By Katie Langin Woodpeckers repeatedly whack their heads against trees with a force 10 times that of a concussion-inducing football tackle, yet they seem no worse for the wear. That has inspired some athletic companies to model helmets and neck collars on the head-banging birds. But woodpeckers may not be immune to head trauma after all. A new study shows that a protein whose abnormal buildup is considered a sign of human brain damage also accumulates in woodpecker brains. That raises an intriguing question: Could the newly discovered “tangles” of this protein, tau, be protecting the woodpecker brain from injury? The idea of concussionless woodpeckers dates back to 1976, when a seminal study that examined sections of the birds’ brains found no evidence of injury. That research spurred “a cascade of papers” on woodpecker biomechanics and their force-resisting adaptations, says George Farah, a neurobiologist at Boston University. Because the old study used an outdated staining method to reveal damage in the brain, he and his colleagues decided to redo the work with 21st century technology. They asked several museums for woodpecker specimens whose brains they could study. Their final haul: six downy woodpeckers, one yellow-bellied sapsucker, one northern flicker, one pale-billed woodpecker, and one lineated woodpecker. For comparison, they also got five brains from a non–head-banging species, the red-winged blackbird. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24610 - Posted: 02.03.2018

By Viviane Callier People who experience blast-related trauma to the brain, a condition that has become more and more common among combat veterans, can later experience depression and heightened anxiety, even in the absence of a psychological stressor. Patients are usually treated with medications (particularly antidepressants) and behavioral therapy, but these are often only partially effective. In search of a more-effective drug, researchers have found that a compound that blocks certain glutamate receptors in the brain reverses many of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms that appear after rats endure a blast injury, they report in eNeuro this week (January 29). The drug, called BCI-838, is already in human clinical trials for the treatment of depression. “What makes this paper a really nice addition to the literature is that it comes from a good group that over the years has honed and refined a very legitimate, biologically relevant, and battlefield-relevant animal model,” says David Cook, who studies neurodegenerative disease at the VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington and who was not involved in the study. “This compound, which has plausibility for clinical use, was quite efficacious in ameliorating the PTSD-like symptoms that were caused by blast exposure a long time afterwards. This is the kind of stuff everyone is looking for.” Recent improvements in body armor have increased the chance that military personnel survive blast exposures that, a few years ago, would have killed them. But the result is that mild, repetitive TBI has become a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, explains Cook. It isn’t unusual to encounter veterans who have been exposed to—and survived—more than 100 blasts, he says. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Stress
Link ID: 24608 - Posted: 02.03.2018

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Having migraine headaches increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases, a new study has found. Using the Danish National Patient Registry, researchers matched 51,032 people with migraines, 71 percent of them women, with 510,320 people in the general population without migraines. The subjects were, on average, age 35 at the start of the study, and researchers followed them for 19 years. The absolute risk for cardiovascular disease was small, unsurprising in a group this young. Nevertheless, after adjustment for other variables, over the course of the study people with migraines had a 49 percent increased chance of heart attack, and roughly double the risk of stroke. They also had a 59 percent increased risk of a blood clot in their veins. These risks were even higher in the first year after a migraine diagnosis. The observational study, in BMJ, found no association of migraine with peripheral artery disease or heart failure. “We now have accumulating evidence that migraine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It’s important to take it into consideration,” said the lead author, Dr. Kasper Adelborg, a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University. “And it’s important to find out if the agents that prevent migraine could also reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24597 - Posted: 02.01.2018

Susan Milius Ready for sketch comedy she’s not. But a 14-year-old killer whale named Wikie has shown promise in mimicking strange sounds, such as a human “hello” — plus some rude noises. Scientists recorded Wikie at her home in Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France, imitating another killer whale’s loud “raspberry” sounds, as well as a trumpeting elephant and humans saying such words as “one, two, three.” The orca’s efforts were overall “recognizable” as attempted copies, comparative psychologist José Zamorano Abramson of Complutense University of Madrid and colleagues report January 31 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Just how close Wikie’s imitations come to the originals depends on whether you’re emphasizing the rhythm or other aspects of sound, Abramson says. Six people judged Wikie’s mimicry ability, and a computer program also rated her skills. She did better at some sounds, like blowing raspberries and saying “hello-hello,” than others, including saying “bye-bye.” Imitating human speech is especially challenging for killer whales. Instead of vocalizing by passing air through their throats, they sound off by forcing air through passageways in the upper parts of their heads. It’s “like speaking with the nose,” Abramson says. The research supports the idea that imitation plays a role in how killer whales develop their elaborate dialects of bleating pulses. Cetaceans are rare among mammals in that, like humans, they learn how to make the sounds their species uses to communicate. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 24596 - Posted: 01.31.2018