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By Dan Falk When the ghost of King Hamlet commands his son to “remember me,” the prince takes the message to heart, vowing to “wipe away” all that is trivial in his accumulated memory, so that “thy commandment alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain.” Of course, it’s not quite that simple, and we often find ourselves doing battle with our memories — struggling to recall something that we’ve forgotten, or wishing to forget something that nonetheless intrudes into consciousness. Humans are masters at leaping through time, vividly imagining the past while making richly detailed plans for the future. A long-forgotten memory can surface at any time. In Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” the narrator bites into a French pastry known as a madeleine and is instantly transported back in time. Suddenly a childhood memory “revealed itself” — it was the recollection of the snack his aunt used to share with him in her bedroom on Sunday mornings before mass. Poets and novelists got a head start, but for some 140 years now scientists, too, have been wrestling with memory. It’s this struggle that two Norwegian sisters, the novelist Hilde Østby and the neuropsychologist Ylva Østby, tackle in their engrossing book, “Adventures in Memory: The Science and Secrets of Remembering and Forgetting.” Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25762 - Posted: 12.08.2018

By Paula Span Shari Horne broke her toes a decade ago, and after surgery, “I have plates and pins and screws in my feet, and they get achy at times,” she said. So Ms. Horne, 66, applies a salve containing cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis, or marijuana, plant. It eases the pain. The salve didn’t help when she developed bursitis in her shoulder, but a tincture of cannabidiol mixed with T.H.C., the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, provided relief. Using a pipe, she also smokes “a few hits” of a cannabis brand called Blue Dream after dinner, because “I think relaxing is healthy for you.” Many of her neighbors in Laguna Woods, Calif., a community of mostly older adults in Orange County, where she serves on the City Council, have developed similar routines. “People in their 80s and 90s, even retired Air Force colonels, are finding such relief” with cannabis, said Ms. Horne. “Almost everybody I know is using it in one form or another” — including her husband Hal, 68, a retired insurance broker, who says it helps him sleep. In fact, so many Laguna Woods seniors use medical cannabis — for ailments ranging from arthritis and diabetes nerve pain to back injuries and insomnia — that the local dispensary, Bud and Bloom, charters a free bus to bring residents to its Santa Ana location to stock up on supplies. Along with a catered lunch, the bus riders get a seniors discount. Physicians who treat older adults expect their cannabis use to increase as the number of states legalizing medical marijuana keeps growing. After the midterm elections, when Utah and Missouri voters approved medical use, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, along with ten states that also have legalized recreational use. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25761 - Posted: 12.08.2018

By C. Claiborne Ray Q. Do lizards dream like people do? A. Some species of lizards do have two sleep phases, one resembling the dreaming phase of human beings, other mammals and birds. In 2016, a study of the central bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps, found slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement states that cycled back and forth in 80-second increments over sleep periods of six to 10 hours. In other animals, slow-wave sleep is usually described as deep, dreamless sleep, while rapid eye movements are linked to shallower sleep and dreaming. Recently scientists in France collected data on brain activity, heart rates and behavioral patterns, including eye movement, in the sleeping Argentine black-and-white tegu (Salvator merianae). The scientists also documented two sleep states, suggesting that the animals do experience something like R.E.M. sleep. In both studies, the researchers suggested that dreaming may have originated with a common ancestor of mammals, birds and lizards, rather than developing independently in various species. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 25760 - Posted: 12.08.2018

By Jennifer Couzin-Frankel For the millions of people treated for cancer, “chemo brain” can be an unnerving and disabling side effect. It causes memory lapses, trouble concentrating, and an all-around mental fog, which appear linked to the treatment and not the disease. Although the cognitive effects often fade after chemotherapy ends, for some people the fog persists for years, even decades. And doctors and researchers have long wondered why. Now, a new study suggests an answer in the case of one chemotherapy drug: Brain cells called microglia may orchestrate chemo brain by disrupting other cells that help maintain the brain’s communication system. “I can’t tell you how many patients I see who look at me when I explain [chemo brain] and say, ‘I’ve been living with this for 10 years and thought I was crazy,’” says Michelle Monje, a pediatric neuro-oncologist and neuroscientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. It’s still mostly a mystery how common long-term cognitive impairment is after chemo. In one recent study by clinical neuropsychologist Sanne Schagen at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, it affected 16% of breast cancer survivors 6 months after treatment. Monje began to probe the cognitive effects of cancer treatment in the early 2000s, starting with radiation, a therapy that can be far more debilitating than chemotherapy. A Science paper she and her colleagues published in 2003 suggested radiation affected a type of brain cell called microglia, which protect the brain against inflammation. Just like immune cells in the blood, microglia—which make up at least 10% of all brain cells—become activated during injury or infection. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Neurotoxins; Glia
Link ID: 25759 - Posted: 12.07.2018

Sara Reardon Infectious-disease researchers hunting for the cause of a mysterious illness that is paralysing children are combining machine learning with a new gene-sequencing technique to pin down the culprit. The disease, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), causes limb weakness and paralysis that resembles the symptoms of polio. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has confirmed 134 cases of AFM in the United States so far this year. Many of those who develop the illness never recover. Most of the evidence suggests that an enterovirus called EV-D681 is causing the illness, but researchers haven’t been able to find the pathogen in the spinal fluid of sick children. Scientists are trying to identify the culprit by using a combination of host-response diagnostics — which look at how the immune system responds to pathogens — and machine-learning analysis. The approach could lead to better diagnostics and provide hints about new treatments. Host-response diagnostic tests haven’t been used in the clinic yet. But researchers are developing similar tests to help pinpoint other conditions that can be tricky to diagnose, including tuberculosis and bacterial meningitis. This year’s AFM outbreak started in October, and is the third in a series of outbreaks in the United States that began in 2014. They have occurred every other year since, though researchers have yet to find a definitive explanation for the pattern. It is also taking scientists an unusually long time to determine the cause of the illness, says William Weldon, a microbiologist at the CDC. © 2018 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Movement Disorders; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25758 - Posted: 12.07.2018

Laura Sanders The uterus is best known for its baby-growing job. But the female organ may also have an unexpected role in memory, a study in rats suggests. The results, published online December 6 in Endocrinology, counter the idea that the nonpregnant uterus is an extraneous organ. That may have implications for the estimated 20 million women in the United States who have had hysterectomies. In the study, female rats either underwent removal of the uterus, ovaries, both organs or neither. Six weeks after surgery, researchers led by behavioral neuroscientist Heather Bimonte-Nelson of Arizona State University in Tempe began testing the rats on water mazes with platforms that were hidden just below the surface. Compared with the other groups, rats that lacked only a uterus were worse at remembering where to find the platforms as the tests turned progressively harder. The results suggest that signals that go from the uterus to the brain are somehow involved in remembering multiple bits of information at the same time. Rats lacking just a uterus had differences in their hormone levels, too, even though these rats kept their hormone-producing ovaries. Researchers have known for decades that hormones released by the ovaries can influence the brain. But finding that the uterus on its own can influence memory is a surprise, says neuroendocrinologist Victoria Luine of Hunter College of the City University of New York. Because many women have their uteruses removed but keep their ovaries, “this revelation brings up some interesting questions to explore.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 25757 - Posted: 12.07.2018

Rhitu Chatterjee Researchers have traced a connection between some infections and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. New research from Denmark bolsters that connection. The study, published Thursday in JAMA Psychiatry, shows that a wide variety of infections, even common ones like bronchitis, are linked to a higher risk of many mental illnesses in children and adolescents. The findings support the idea that infections affect mental health, possibly by influencing the immune system. "This idea that activation of the body's immune inflammatory system as a causative factor in ... select mental illnesses is one that has really caught on," says Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who wasn't involved in the study. "This study adds to that generally, but builds the case further in a compelling way." In the new study, the researchers gathered data on hospitalizations and prescription medications for the 1.1 million children born in Denmark between Jan. 1, 1995, and June 30, 2012. "We could follow individuals from birth, so there was no missing information during the study period," says Dr. Ole Köhler-Forsberg of Aarhus University Hospital, a neuroscientist and one of the authors of the study. Köhler-Forsberg and his colleagues used two national registries — one to get data on hospitalizations because of severe infections like pneumonia and another for data on antimicrobial or antiparasitic medications prescribed to children for less severe infections. "Most of them are those infections that you and I and all others have experienced," says Köhler-Forsberg. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25756 - Posted: 12.06.2018

Michael Eisenstein In March, researchers in Japan mapped the cellular organization of the mouse brain in unprecedented detail. Systems biologist Hiroki Ueda at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research in Osaka, Japan, and his team created an atlas of the mouse brain using a technique called CUBIC-X, in which they chemically labelled every cell in the brain, then rendered the organ crystal-clear while also expanding its size tenfold1. From there, they used sophisticated imaging techniques to compile a comprehensive 3D neuronal survey — of some 72 million cells in all, Ueda says. The resulting atlas reduces the brain to a compact database of cellular addresses, which the team used to explore changes in various brain regions during development. Moving forward, the atlas could drive deeper explorations of brain structures that control behaviours such as the sleep–wake cycle. CUBIC-X is just one component in a growing toolbox of such methods, which exploit readily available chemicals to provide researchers with a window not just into the brain, but into virtually every organ in the body. Some are tissue-clearing methods that make opaque tissues transparent, whereas others complement tissue clearing with a proportional size increase that exposes molecular details to conventional microscopy. The choice comes down to the scientific question. There are many ways to achieve similar ends, and users should investigate the strengths and limitations of different methods before deciding which to use. The hunger for tissue-clearing techniques originated with neuroscientists, who were frustrated by their limited ability to trace the snaking routes of axons and dendrites in the brain. © 2018 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 25755 - Posted: 12.06.2018

By Jonathan D. Grinstein It is well known that a high salt diet leads to high blood pressure, a risk factor for an array of health problems, including heart disease and stroke. But over the last decade, studies across human populations have reported the association between salt intake and stroke irrespective of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, suggesting a missing link between salt intake and brain health. Interestingly, there is a growing body of work showing that there is communication between the gut and brain, now commonly dubbed the gut–brain axis. The disruption of the gut–brain axis contributes to a diverse range of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Consequently, the developing field of gut–brain axis research is rapidly growing and evolving. Five years ago, a couple of studies showed that high salt intake leads to profound immune changes in the gut, resulting in increased vulnerability of the brain to autoimmunity—when the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues by mistake, suggesting that perhaps the gut can communicate with the brain via immune signaling. Now, new research shows another connection: immune signals sent from the gut can compromise the brain’s blood vessels, leading to deteriorated brain heath and cognitive impairment. Surprisingly, the research unveils a previously undescribed gut–brain connection mediated by the immune system and indicates that excessive salt might negatively impact brain health in humans through impairing the brain’s blood vessels regardless of its effect on blood pressure. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Obesity; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25754 - Posted: 12.06.2018

Elana Gordon In several European countries and Canada, patients with longterm opioid addiction are prescribed pharmaceutical grade heroin which they inject in clinics like the Patrida Medical Clinic in Berlin. Some addiction specialists want to pilot similar programs in the U.S. The U.S. drug crisis does not appear to be letting up. The nation experienced a shattering 47,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017. Driving the surge are potent, cheap synthetics like fentanyl. They've spread into the illicit drug supply, and in response communities have been trying a range of interventions, from increasing naloxone trainings to upping treatment resources. But a new analysis from policy think tank, the Rand Corporation, concludes it's time to pilot an approach from outside the U.S.: offering pharmaceutical-grade heroin — yes, heroin — as a form of treatment for long time heroin users who haven't had success with other treatments. It's already happening in several European countries and Canada. But it would challenge culture, laws and practice in the U.S. "These are controversial interventions," says lead author Beau Kilmer, who co-directs RAND's drug policy research center. "There are some people that don't even want to have conversations about this. But given where we are with opioid deaths near 50,000 and fentanyl deaths near 30,000, it's important that we have discussions about these interventions that are grounded in the research and grounded in the experiences of other countries." © 2018 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25753 - Posted: 12.06.2018

Olivier Oullier Smoking is declining in popularity around the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lighting up could decrease from 22.1 per cent of men and women in 2010 to 18.9 by 2025. In the US alone, the number of adult smokers is expected to plummet from 19 per cent in 2010 to 12.5 per cent within seven years. In my native France, where smoking is so endemic scientists once called it “the French paradox”, because smokers did not seem to suffer adverse effects at the same rate as the rest of the world, health minister Agnes Buzyn announced one million people had been persuaded to give up in the past year. So what has contributed to this trend? In addition to price increases and countless public health prevention campaigns, there is evidence that the growth in smoking e-cigarettes, known as vaping, has played a significant role in decreasing tobacco consumption over the past decade, with the belief that it is less toxic. Last year the e-cigarettes market was valued at $10.24 billion and could reach $16.85bn by 2023, according to Mordor Intelligence. A study published by the Drug and Alcohol Review last month claims former smokers who have quit and now vape are less likely to take up smoking cigarettes regularly again. Yet public health experts remain divided when it comes to their attitude towards vaping. A 2016 WHO report submitted before the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which 180 countries have signed up, stated nations should consider cutting the use of e-cigarettes because there was not enough evidence to show they curbed smoking. It suggested countries should consider imposing restrictions on vaping, including tighter controls on sales and advertising. WHO argued while the long-term effects were largely unknown, these were reasonable measures. The UAE is among those countries which ban vaping amid fears of its impact on health.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25752 - Posted: 12.06.2018

By Tam Hunt Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A bat? A cockroach? A bacterium? An electron? These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which has resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years. The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades and is generally known now as the “hard problem” of consciousness (usually capitalized nowadays), after the New York University philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic 1995 paper and his 1996 book The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Fast forward to the present era and we can ask ourselves now: Did the hippies actually solve this problem? My colleague Jonathan Schooler (University of California, Santa Barbara) and I think they effectively did, with the radical intuition that it’s all about vibrations … man. Over the past decade, we have developed a “resonance theory of consciousness” that suggests that resonance—another word for synchronized vibrations—is at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more generally. So how were the hippies right? Well, we agree that vibrations, resonance, are the key mechanism behind human consciousness, as well as animal consciousness more generally. And, as I’ll discuss below, that they are the basic mechanism for all physical interactions to occur. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 25751 - Posted: 12.06.2018

By Nicholas Bakalar Getting enough sleep is healthful, but getting too much might not be. Researchers gathered health and lifestyle information, including self-reported sleep data, on 116,632 people in 21 countries. Over eight years of follow-up, they recorded 4,381 deaths and 4,365 major cardiovascular events. The study, in the European Heart Journal, found that compared with people who slept six to eight hours a night, those who slept eight to nine hours had a 5 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease or death. People who slept nine to 10 hours had a 17 percent increased risk, and those who slept more than 10 hours increased their risk by 41 percent. The researchers also found a 9 percent increased risk in people who slept less than six hours, but that difference was not statistically significant. Daytime naps also increased the risk for cardiovascular events, but only in people who slept more than six hours a night. The researchers controlled for age, body mass index, physical activity, diabetes, depression, smoking, alcohol consumption and many other health and behavioral characteristics. “Get enough sleep — that is, six to eight hours a day,” said the lead author, Chuangshi Wang, a doctoral student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “But if you sleep more than nine hours a day, you may want to visit a doctor to check your overall health.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25750 - Posted: 12.06.2018

By Pam Belluck CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Steve Singer, who has bipolar and borderline personality disorders, knows when he’s on the verge of a mental health crisis. The female voice he hears incessantly in his head suddenly shuts up, and the hula hoop he gyrates while walking to the grocery store stops easing his anxieties. That’s when he gets to a hospital. Usually, talking briefly with a nurse or social worker calms him enough to return home. But this year a hospital placed him on a locked ward, took his phone, and had an armed guard watch him for 20 hours before a social worker spoke with him and released him. “I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it,” said Mr. Singer, 60. “They didn’t help me, they hurt me.” Deeply upset, he turned to something he’d never known existed: He completed a psychiatric advance directive, a legal document declaring what treatment he does and doesn’t want. Increasingly, patients, advocates and doctors believe such directives (called PADs) could help transform the mental health system by allowing patients to shape their care even when they lose touch with reality. Hospitals must put them in patients’ medical records and doctors are expected to follow them unless they document that specific preferences aren’t in the patients’ best medical interest. As the pendulum has swung from institutionalization to outpatient care, psychiatric directives also offer a middle path by allowing patients to designate family members to speak for them when they’re too sick to do so themselves. But some doctors and hospitals are wary that the documents could tie their hands and discourage treatment they consider warranted. Some worry the directives won’t be updated to reflect medical advances. Others question whether people with serious psychiatric conditions are ever capable of lucidly completing such directives. “A decision based on erroneous information on a PAD, that can happen,” said Dr. Katayoun Tabrizi, a forensic psychiatrist at Duke. “This is not a cookbook.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Alzheimers
Link ID: 25749 - Posted: 12.04.2018

By Philip S. Gutis With a slow moving disease like Alzheimer’s, there’s still time for doubt. Perhaps the diagnosis is wrong and the memory holes and struggle for words are just normal aging. Deep in your psyche, there’s still a little spark of hope. But there comes a moment when denial is no longer an option. Like Alzheimer’s itself, the moment creeps up slowly, taking care to not give away too much too soon. My moment came recently, as I was walking past the Bucks County Playhouse in downtown New Hope, Pa. I correctly remembered that my husband, Tim, and I recently saw a show there. I even remembered who went with us. But I had no recollection of what show I had seen. Tim reminded me that it was “Guys and Dolls,” but the memory wasn’t there. No songs, no story, no scenes. Nothing at all. The next morning, I sat quietly on my bed. “Tim,” I said, “It’s coming, isn’t it?” Without asking what I meant, Tim gently said, “Yes, it’s coming.” I cried, of course, but just a little. I’ve known, obviously, that change is coming. I’ve been tested, prodded, injected and studied for well over two years as part of a clinical trial. But looking back, I realize that I’ve still harbored a shadow of doubt. The shadow is gone. The spark of hope has been extinguished. Now we have to seriously plan for the future. Alzheimer’s will continue to steal from me, and, unless there’s an unlikely medical miracle, nothing is going to stop the creeping loss. Loss of memory. Loss of mobility. Loss of freedom. Despite this, I haven’t thrown in the towel. Deep down, I know there’s much more life to live, much more time to fight and to love. The years since my diagnosis haven’t been all bad. A few months after we learned the news, my partner of 12 years and I went to the county courthouse to get married. My sister and my nieces and nephew joined us and took pictures as we kissed for the first time as a married couple and fulfilled the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass for good luck. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 25748 - Posted: 12.04.2018

By Daphna Joel and Cordelia Fine In 17th and 18th century Europe, the rise of egalitarian ideals created the need for a scientific account of women’s inferior status. Thus was born gender biological complementarity — the notion that, as historian of science Londa Schiebinger explains in The Mind Has No Sex, “Women were not to be viewed merely as inferior to men but as fundamentally different from, and thus incomparable to, men.” It has been with us in one way or another, roping in science to explain the gender status quo, ever since. At its core is the persistent belief that men’s and women’s natures can be usefully and meaningfully carved into two categories or “natural kinds,” that are distinct, timeless, and deeply biologically grounded. Today’s version of this idea continues a centuries long quest to find the source of this hypothesized divergence in abilities, preferences, and behavior in the brain: You can find this notion at work, for instance, in popular books like John Gray’s “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” in the 1990s, Louann Brizendine’s “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain” the following decade, and last year’s “Results at the Top: Using Gender Intelligence to Create Breakthrough Growth” by Barbara Annis and Richard Nesbitt. But a version of the same assumption is also sometimes subtly present in scientific research. Consider, for example, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen’s influential Empathizing-Systemizing theory of brains and the accompanying “extreme male brain” theory of autism. This presupposes there is a particular “systemizing” brain type that we could meaningfully describe as “the male brain,” that drives ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that distinguish the typical boy and man from the typical “empathizing” girl and woman. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25747 - Posted: 12.04.2018

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff In May of 2017, Louise decided that her life was just too difficult, so she’d end it. In the previous four years, three siblings and a half-sibling had died, two from disease, one from fire and one from choking. Close friends had moved away. She felt painfully, unbearably alone. It would be the fourth time Louise (I’m using her middle name to protect her privacy), then 68, would attempt suicide, and she was determined to get it right. She wrote a letter with instructions on where to find important documents and who should inherit what. She packed up her jewelry and artwork, addressing each box to particular friends and family members. Then she checked into a motel — homes where people have committed suicide lose value and she didn’t want hers to sell below market — put a plastic sheet on the bed, lay down and swallowed what she figured was an overdose of prescription pills with champagne. A few days later, she woke up in a psychiatric ward in Albuquerque. The motel maid had found her. “I was very upset I had failed,” she told me recently. So she tried to cut her wrists with a bracelet she was wearing — unsuccessfully. The suicide rate has been rising in the United States since the beginning of the century, and is now the 10th leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s often called a public health crisis. And yet no new classes of drugs have been developed to treat depression (and by extension suicidality) in about 30 years, since the advent of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac. The trend most likely has social causes — lack of access to mental health care, economic stress, loneliness and despair, the opioid epidemic, and the unique difficulties facing small-town America. These are serious problems that need long-term solutions. But in the meantime, the field of psychiatry desperately needs new treatment options for patients who show up with a stomach full of pills. Now, scientists think that they may have found one — an old anesthetic called ketamine that, at low doses, can halt suicidal thoughts almost immediately. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25746 - Posted: 12.03.2018

By Sarah Vander Schaaff Nancy Baum Lipsitz remembers the night the pain began. She’d had a glass of white wine with a friend and went to bed with a terrible headache. The next day, she still felt horrible, the beginning of what she called a “rolling tide” of near constant migraines and lower level headaches. For three years she dealt with the symptoms. Sometimes she got tunnel vision, or a visual aura, a warning that a big headache was on the way. Those felt like “someone taking a pick and jabbing it through my nose and eye,” she said. Then there was the vomiting, numbness and sensitivity to light and noise. Her speech slurred. Less severe headaches felt like a “hangover.” She stopped exercising, socializing and overseeing her 15-year-old daughter’s homework, relying instead on her daughter to take care of her, bringing an ice pack, medication or whatever else she needed when a migraine attacked. “Everything you are as a human being gets stripped away,” Lipsitz said of what was ultimately diagnosed as refractory migraine. The one thing she did not give up was her work. As director of anesthesiology at Carnegie Hill Endoscopy in New York, she knew patients and staff depended on her. “I am not going to let a migraine shut me in the bedroom,” she said. She showed up at 6 a.m., no matter the pain. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25745 - Posted: 12.03.2018

By Stephen L. Macknik Sensory information flowing into our brains is inherently ambiguous. We perceive 3D despite having only 2D images on our retinas. It’s an illusion. A sunburn on our face can feel weirdly cool. Illusion. A little perfume smells good but too much is obnoxious. Also an illusion. The brain expends a great deal of effort to disambiguate the meaning of each incoming signal—often using context as a clue—but the neural mechanisms of these abilities remain mysterious. Neuroscientists are a little closer to understanding how to study these mechanisms, thanks to a new study by Kevin Ortego, Michael Pitts, & Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez from Pitts's lab at Reed College, presented at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience meeting, on the brain's responses to both visual and language illusions. Illusions are experiences in which the physical reality is different from our perception or expectation. Ambiguous stimuli are important tools to science because the physical reality can legitimately be interpreted in more than one way. Take the classic rabbit-duck illusion, published by the Fliegende Blätter magazine, in Münich, at the end of the 19th century, in which the image can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit. Bistable illusions like these can flip back and forth between competing interpretations, but one cannot see both percepts at the same time. Recent examples of ambiguous illusions show that numerous interpretations are possible. The first place winner of this year's Best Illusion of the Year Contest, created by from Kokichi Sugihara, shows three different ways of perceiving the same object, depending on your specific vantage point. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Language; Attention
Link ID: 25744 - Posted: 12.03.2018

By Austin Frakt If part of a hospital stay is to recover from a procedure or illness, why is it so hard to get any rest? There is more noise and light than is conducive for sleep. And nurses and others visit frequently to give medications, take vitals, draw blood or perform tests and checkups — in many cases waking patients to do so. Some monitoring is necessary, of course. Medication must be given; some vital signs do need to be checked. And frequent monitoring is warranted for some patients — such as those in intensive care units. But others are best left mostly alone. Yet many hospitals don’t distinguish between the two, disrupting everyone on a predefined schedule. Peter Ubel understands the problem as both a physician and patient. When he spent a night in the hospital recovering from surgery in 2013, he was interrupted multiple times by blood draws, vital sign checks, other lab tests, as well as by the beeping of machines. “Not an hour went by without some kind of disruption,” said Dr. Ubel, a physician with Duke University. “It’s a terrible way to start recovery.” It’s more than annoying — such disruptions can harm patients. Short sleep durations are associated with reduced immune function, delirium, hypertension and mood disorders. Hospital conditions, including sleep disruptions, may contribute to “posthospital syndrome” — the period of vulnerability to a host of health problems after hospitalization that are not related to the reason for that hospitalization. “In addressing a patient’s acute illness, we may inadvertently be causing harm by ignoring the important restorative powers of a healing environment,” said Harlan Krumholz, a Yale University physician who has been calling attention to posthospital syndrome for several years. “The key to a successful recovery after illness may be a less stressful, more supportive, more humane experience during the hospitalization.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25743 - Posted: 12.03.2018