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HEALTH CARE NEWS

US Congress extends CHIP, funds opioid crisis response following temporary shutdown

Publish date: February 9, 2018

By 

Gregory Twachtman 

Oncology Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress, despite a second shutdown in less than a month, was able to pass a number of financial extenders to fund key health care programs.

The bipartisan spending bill (H.R. 1892), passed in the early morning hours on Feb. 9 by a 71-28 vote in the Senate (16 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against it, and Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] was not present) and a 240-186 vote in the House (67 Republicans and 119 Democrats voted against and 5 representatives did not vote). President Trump signed the bill later that morning.

 

The spending bill and continuing resolution to fund the government through March 23 includes $6 billion to fund treatment for opioid addiction and other mental health issues, $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, and 4 additional years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The additional CHIP funding extends the program for a total of 10 years.

The funding bill also made a technical correction to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track of the Medicare Quality Payment Program. It removes Part B drug reimbursement from the MIPS payment adjustment, so any positive or negative change to physician payments based on the MIPS score will only be applied to physician fee schedule payments.

The bill also repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by the Affordable Care Act that would have the power to slash Medicare spending under certain budget circumstances. That board was never convened.

The funding legislation also accelerates closure of the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” the coverage gap in which beneficiaries must pay 100% of medication costs prior to entering catastrophic coverage.

Just over $7 billion was provided for community health centers and Medicare’s therapy caps were repealed.

While the funding bill was written in the Senate with bipartisan input and received bipartisan support, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up votes over objections to the more than $1 trillion it will add to the nation’s debt, as well as for the fact that there was no opportunity to introduce and vote on amendments, leading to an hours-long government shutdown.

There also were concerns about two issues that could have derailed the vote in the House. Democrats wanted to add language to address immigrants brought to this nation illegally as children, while some Republicans did not want to increase the federal debt. However, there were enough votes to pass the funding legislation.

gtwachtman@frontlinemedcom.com

Obesity Plagues Rural America

Drotumdi O

June 19, 2018 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Country folk are being hit harder by the U.S. obesity epidemic than city dwellers, two new government studies show.

Nearly 40 percent of rural American men and almost half of rural women are now statistically obese, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers reported Tuesday.

And rural men, women and children are more likely to be severely obese than their counterparts from .

Further, rates of severe in adults grew much faster in rural areas than metropolitan areas during the past decade and a half, said senior researcher Cynthia Ogden.

"If you look at the trends in men, severe obesity more than tripled in rural areas," said Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist. "In women, severe obesity more than doubled."

Experts categorize obesity according to body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on height and weight. Severe obesity—a BMI of 40 or more—increased in rural men from less than 3 percent in 2001-2004 to almost 10 percent in recent years.

Severe obesity also increased among urban-dwelling men during the same period, but only from 2.5 percent to roughly 4 percent.

In non-metropolitan women, severe obesity leapt from about 6 percent to almost 14 percent, while creeping up from about 6 percent to just over 8 percent among urban women.

"It increased for urban residents, but it didn't increase as much," Ogden said.

Health experts said they are puzzled by the studies' results, given the popular notion that urban dwellers have less access to healthy food and regular physical labor than rural dwellers.

"I wasn't surprised that obesity was a problem in rural areas. I was just surprised that it was higher than in urban areas. I kind of expected it to be the other way," said Dr. Robert Wergin, a country doctor in Milford, Neb. He's also past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Obesity is linked to an array of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer and pregnancy complications.

For the reports, the researchers relied on data from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which regularly monitors the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States.

They found more obesity (a BMI between 30 and 40) in than urban settings for men (39 percent versus 32 percent), women (47 percent vs. 38 percent) and children (about 22 percent vs. 17 percent).

Differences were even more striking when it came to severe obesity.

Rural men have twice as much severe obesity as urban males, nearly 10 percent vs. just over 4 percent. There also are large differences in women (almost 14 percent vs. a little more than 8 percent) and children (over 9 percent vs. just over 5 percent).

It's particularly troubling that nearly 1 in every 10 rural children is severely obese, said Aaron Kelly, co-director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine.

"These kids with really need to have access to specialized medical care to treat their obesity, in the form of weight management services," Kelly said. "The severity of the disease makes it such that it can't be effectively treated in the primary care environment."

Unfortunately, those sorts of services are available only in urban settings.

"That's a huge issue," Kelly said. "They just aren't going to be able to reasonably drive to the bigger cities where these obesity specialists are who can help them."

There's no way to tell at this point why rural people seem to struggle more with obesity than city residents, Wergin said.

But rural doctors need to be more proactive in talking with patients about their weight, he added.

"Family physicians like myself are in an ideal position. Being a whole-person approach to medicine, we don't just look at your heart or your lungs," Wergin said. "We need to be ready to say, 'Your BMI is now 29, that makes you overweight. Let's talk a little bit about food choices and physical activity.' "

The researchers also found other factors that influence .

For example, people who had a college degree were less likely to be obese or severely obese.

"It may have to do with nutritional education and outlook and importance of physical well-being," Wergin said. "You're more aware of food choices and proper eating with more fruits and vegetables."

The studies were published in the June 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Explore further: In US, obesity, smoking more common in rural areas: study

More information: Cynthia Ogden, Ph.D., CDC epidemiologist and branch chief, U.S..National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey analysis; Robert Wergin, M.D., Milford, Neb., past president, American Academy of Family Physicians; Aaron Kelly, Ph.D., co-director, Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine, University of Minnesota; June 19, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about obesity's health effects.


Opioids killed nearly 4,000 in Canada last year: official

Drotumdi O

June 19, 2018
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The opioid crisis claimed nearly 4,000 lives in Canada last year, mainly from overdoses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl, the public health agency said Tuesday, warning of a worsening situation.

The was 34 percent higher than the previous year, with most of the fatal overdoses involving men aged 30 to 39 who obtained fentanyl illegally from narcotics traffickers on the street.

Almost 90 percent of the 3,987 deaths in 2017 were concentrated in just three provinces: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

"Canada continues to experience a serious and growing opioid crisis," the public health agency said in a report.

Fentanyl is considered 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said " of opioid prescriptions" are also a "contributing factor in the crisis."

"As minister, I am calling on industry to act now and stop their marketing activities associated with these products in Canada," she said.

The health ministry explained that while "can help Canadians who need them to manage pain," marketing the drugs can unduly influence doctors and lead to "over-prescription."

According to figures, opioid prescriptions actually fell last year for the first time since 2012, to 21.3 million.

In response to the crisis, Ottawa has poured tens of millions of dollars into strengthening and distributing the overdose antidote naloxone.

Explore further: Fatal opioid overdoses on the rise in Canada

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Drotumdi O

June 18, 2018 by Jamey Keaten And Maria Cheng
Compulsive video-game playing now new mental health problem
In this Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 file photo, a man plays a game at the Paris Games Week in Paris. The World Health Organization says that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a new mental health condition, in a move that some …more

Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing.

In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the U.N. health agency said Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition. The statement confirmed the fears of some parents but led critics to warn that it may risk stigmatizing too many young video players.

WHO said classifying "gaming disorder" as a separate addiction will help governments, families and health care workers be more vigilant and prepared to identify the risks. The agency and other experts were quick to note that cases of the condition are still very rare, with no more than up to 3 percent of all gamers believed to be affected.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO's department for mental health and substance abuse, said the agency accepted the proposal that gaming disorder should be listed as a new problem based on scientific evidence, in addition to "the need and the demand for treatment in many parts of the world."

Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, warned that the new designation might cause unnecessary concern among parents.

"People need to understand this doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help," she said.

Others welcomed WHO's new classification, saying it was critical to identify people hooked on video games quickly because they are usually teenagers or young adults who don't seek help themselves.

"We come across parents who are distraught, not only because they're seeing their child drop out of school, but because they're seeing an entire family structure fall apart," said Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokeswoman for behavioral addictions at Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was not connected to WHO's decision.

Bowden-Jones said gaming addictions were usually best treated with psychological therapies but that some medicines might also work.

The American Psychiatric Association has not yet deemed gaming disorder to be a new mental health problem. In a 2013 statement, the association said it's "a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion" in its own diagnostic manual.

The group noted that much of the scientific literature about compulsive gamers is based on evidence from young men in Asia.

"The studies suggest that when these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict's brain is affected by a particular substance," the association said in that statement. "The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior."

Dr. Mark Griffiths, who has been researching the concept of video gaming disorder for 30 years, said the new classification would help legitimize the problem and strengthen treatment strategies.

"Video gaming is like a non-financial kind of gambling from a psychological point of view," said Griffiths, a distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. "Gamblers use money as a way of keeping score whereas gamers use points."

He guessed that the percentage of video game players with a compulsive problem was likely to be extremely small—much less than 1 percent—and that many such people would likely have other underlying problems, like depression, bipolar disorder or autism.

WHO's Saxena, however, estimated that 2 to 3 percent of gamers might be affected.

Griffiths said playing video games, for the vast majority of people, is more about entertainment and novelty, citing the overwhelming popularity of games like "Pokemon Go."

"You have these short, obsessive bursts and yes, people are playing a lot, but it's not an addiction," he said.

Saxena said parents and friends of video game enthusiasts should still be mindful of a potentially harmful problem.

"Be on the lookout," he said, noting that concerns should be raised if the gaming habit appears to be taking over.

"If (video games) are interfering with the expected functions of the person—whether it is studies, whether it's socialization, whether it's work—then you need to be cautious and perhaps seek help," he said.

Explore further: WHO gaming addiction classification an important step for treatment, says expert

Why Long-term Separation Harms Kids

Drotumdi O

June 6, 2018 by David Rosenberg, The Conversation
Children are often sad when separated from their parents for a short time, but the effects are pronounced if the separation is long. Credit: Eakachai Lessin/Shutterstock.com

As a society, we often wax eloquent about how important it is to nurture, support and protect our children. The sad reality, however, is that all too often major, life-changing decisions are made without any consideration of their potential lifelong and devastating impact on kids.

Case in point: separated from their parents at borders as new immigration policies are debated. Separation from for even short periods can cause disorders that can last a long time.

I wish to underscore that my explanation here is apolitical. Instead, I am writing as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, parent, and member of our society, who would prefer that we be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to protecting vulnerable children at high risk for separation anxiety disorder and other emotional and behavior problems.

Separation anxiety disorder is a disorder that is marked by unusually strong, and clinically significant, fear and distress related to separation from the home, a parent or other attachment figure. The fear and distress exceed levels appropriate for the individual's age and developmental level, and lasts at least four weeks in children.

Symptoms can include persistent fears of parents being killed or kidnapped, worries about a parent getting sick and being afraid to go to school. Abdominal pain, nausea and other physical symptoms are also common.

Uncertainty and pathological doubting can dominate. These children with separation anxiety disorder never get the "all clear signal" that they or their loved ones are safe unless they are physically together. Even then, safety is precarious as there is always the risk for future separation.

Low socioeconomic status, a family history of anxiety or depression, and other environmental, hereditary and genetic factors appear to increase the risk of developing separation anxiety disorder. However, some of the most common precipitants of separation anxiety symptoms are stress, trauma or a sudden change in environment, such as a divorce or death in the family, a move to a new house or school, or from being forcibly separated from a parent or loved one.

It is important to point out that it is perfectly normal for young children to experience separation anxiety. It is a normal developmental milestone. For example, it is common for young children to get nervous and scared when their parent leaves and says goodbye.

This usually gets better in children as they get older, but in about 4-5 percent of children and adolescents separation anxiety persists and requires therapeutic intervention.

Treatment for separation anxiety disorder includes therapy, reassurance of the child and caregivers, and psychoeducation to provide the family with information about this disorder and the available treatment services that they can receive. However, medication may also be required for severe cases.

Separation anxiety disorder also increases the risk for developing depression, other anxiety , post-traumatic stress disorder, and a dependent personality disorder in adulthood.

While it is true that children can be resilient and either persevere or recover, it is never easy and the hidden scars remain.

Explore further: Parental touch may reduce social anxiety in children

Vaccine nonmedical exemptions creating metro ‘hotspots

Drotumdi O

From the Journals

Publish date: June 12, 2018
Richard Franki
Family Practice News

FROM PLOS MEDICINE

Recent increases in nonmedical exemptions (NMEs) to vaccination have created metropolitan “hotspots” with large numbers of unvaccinated children, according to a report published June 12 in PLoS Medicine.

Since 2009, NMEs based on philosophical beliefs have increased in 12 of the 18 states that currently allow them, although rates seem to have plateaued in some states since 2014. As a result of those increases, there were, during the 2016-2017 school year, 15 metro areas with kindergarten NME populations over 400, reported Jacqueline K. Olive, and her associates at Baylor College of Medicine. Their report was based on data from state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Leading the way was Maricopa County, Ariz., home of Phoenix and 2,947 unvaccinated kindergartners, which was more than triple the number in county/city No. 2, Salt Lake County/Salt Lake City (NME total: 956). Close behind in third was King County, Wash. (Seattle) at 940, followed by Multnomah County, Ore. (Portland) at 711 and Oakland County, Mich. (Troy) at 686, the investigators said.

[There was only room for 10 in the map, so here are hotspots 11-15: Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit); Allegheny County, Pa. (Pittsburgh); Travis County, Tex. (Austin); Jackson County, Mo. (Kansas City); and Spokane County, Wash. (Spokane).]

In addition to the large-population hotspots, there are also a number of mainly rural counties with smaller populations but high NME rates. Eight of the 10 highest such rates can be found in Idaho, and at the top of that list is Camas County, which had an NME rate of 27% in 2016-2017, the researchers reported.


Analysis of the relationship between NMEs and MMR vaccination showed that “states with more NME students exhibited lower MMR vaccination rates. In contrast, states that have banned NMEs – Mississippi, California, and West Virginia – exhibit the highest MMR vaccine uptake and lowest incidence of vaccine preventable diseases,” the investigators wrote.

Ms. Olive and her associates said that there was no specific funding for the study and that no conflicts of interest existed.

rfranki@mdedge.com

SOURCE: Olive JK et al. PLoS Med. 2018 Jun 12;15(6): e1002578. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002578.

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Irritable Bowel Disease vs Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Drotumdi O


Irritable Bowel Syndrome vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD on September 14, 2017 — Written by Michael Kerr and Kristeen Cherney

When it comes to the world of gastrointestinal diseases, you may hear a lot of acronyms such as IBD and IBS. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a broad term that refers to chronic swelling (inflammation) of the intestines. It’s often confused with the non-inflammatory condition irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although the two disorders share similar names and some of the same symptoms, they have distinct differences. Learn the key differences here. Be sure to discuss your concerns with a gastroenterologist.

IBS is extremely common. In fact, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders estimates that it affects up to 15 percent of the population worldwide. According to Cedars-Sinai, about 25 percent of Americans complain of IBS symptoms. This is also the most common reason why patients seek out a gastroenterologist.

IBS is a distinctly different condition than IBD. Still, a person who has been diagnosed with IBD may display IBS-like symptoms. It’s also important to know that you can have both conditions at the same time. Both are considered chronic (ongoing) conditions.

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Some types of IBD include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • indeterminate colitis

Unlike IBD, IBS isn’t classified as a true disease. Instead it’s known as a “functional disorder.” This means that the symptoms don’t have an identifiable cause. Other examples of functional disorders include tension headaches and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Contrary to popular belief, IBS isn’t a psychological condition. IBS has physical symptoms, but there is no known cause. Sometimes the symptoms are called mucous colitis or spastic colitis, but those names are technically incorrect. Colitis is an inflammation of the colon, whereas IBS does not cause inflammation.

People with IBS show no clinical signs of a disease and often have normal test results. Although both conditions can occur in anyone at any age, it seems to run in families.

IBS is characterized by a combination of:

  • abdominal pain
  • cramps
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

IBD can cause the same symptoms, as well as:

  • eye inflammation
  • extreme fatigue
  • intestinal scarring
  • joint pain
  • malnutrition
  • rectal bleeding
  • weight loss

Both can cause urgent bowel movements.

IBS patients may experience a feeling of incomplete evacuation as well. Pain may be experienced across the entire abdomen. It most often manifests in either the lower right or lower left side. Some people will also experience upper right side abdominal pain without any other symptoms.

IBS differs in the amount of stool produced. IBS can cause loose stools, but the volume will actually fall within the normal limits. (Diarrhea is defined by volume, not necessarily by consistency.)

IBS sufferers with constipation typically have normal colonic transit times — the amount of time it takes for stool to travel from the colon to the rectum — as well.

Depending upon the main symptom, IBS patients are classified as constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant, or pain-predominant.

Since the inflammation of IBD is absent in people with IBS, it’s difficult for researchers to understand the precise causes of the latter condition. One notable difference is that IBS is almost always exacerbated by stress. Stress reduction techniques may help. Consider trying:

  • meditation
  • regular exercise
  • talk therapy
  • yoga

IBD may flare up in both low-stress and high-stress situations.

According to Dr. Fred Saibil, author of the book “Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis,” many people don't feel they can discuss IBS because of social stigmas. "You don't hear a lot of people talking about their 'tension vomiting' or 'tension diarrhea' or 'tension bellyaches,'" he says, "even though these are every bit as common."

Dr. Saibil notes also that there’s still some confusion over IBD because doctors once believed that the condition was caused by stress. There’s no evidence that that is the case, however, and IBD patients should in no way feel they brought the condition on themselves.

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IBS may be treated with certain medications such as intestinal antispasmodics like hyoscyamine (Levsin) or dicyclomine (Bentyl).

Dietary and lifestyle changes seem to help the most. People with IBS should avoid aggravating their condition with fried and fatty foods and caffeinated beverages.

IBD treatment depends on the form diagnosed. The primary goal is treating and preventing inflammation. Over time, this can damage the intestines.

IBD and IBS may seem to share similar symptoms, but these are two different conditions with very different treatment requirements. With IBD, the goal is to reduce inflammation that causes symptoms. IBS, on the other hand, may not be treatable with medications because there is not an identifiable cause. A gastroenterologist can help determine your specific condition and offer the best treatment plan and resources to help you manage symptoms.

Q:

Which natural remedies will help ease the symptoms of IBS and IBD?

A:

There are several natural remedies and lifestyle changes that may improve your IBS symptoms such as slowly increasing the fiber in your diet, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding foods that make symptoms worse such as alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners, exercise regularly, eat at regular times, and use caution with laxatives and anti-diarrheal medications.

The recommendations differ a little for patients with IBD. If you have IBD, you may need to avoid dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods and you may need to also limit your fiber intake and avoid fatty foods. It is still important to drink plenty of fluids with IBD. You should also eat smaller meals and consider taking a multivitamin. Finally, you should avoid smoking and reduce your stress level with techniques such as exercise, biofeedback, or regular relaxation and breathing exercises.

Graham Rogers, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.



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Why that cigarette, chocolate bar, or new handbag feels so good—how pleasure affects our brain

Drotumdi O

April 27, 2018 by James Kesby, The Conversation
It’s not just our taste buds thanking us when we give ourselves a sweet treat. Credit: Rakicevic Nenad/Unsplash

Every day we make a range of choices in the pursuit of pleasure: we do things that make us feel good or work in a specific job because it's rewarding or pays well. These experiences help shape our perspectives on life and define our personality.

Consequently, problems with our ability to manage or maintain our pursuit of often lie at the root of many neuropsychiatric disorders such as addiction and depression.

What's going on in the brain when we experience pleasure?

Pleasure itself – that good feeling you get in response to food, sex and drugs – is driven by the release of a range of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in many parts of the brain. But in the brain's reward system is particularly important. Dopamine release tells the brain when to expect something rewarding, modulates how rewarding it will be and drives us to seek rewarding things.

Dopamine is also important for a range of other functions such as voluntary movement and cognition. Disorders such as schizophrenia have too much release, which causes psychotic symptoms. In neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, the dopamine cells responsible for motor coordination die prematurely.

All drugs of abuse, no matter their primary mode of action, release dopamine in this system. Other rewarding experiences – sex, food, and gambling – are also associated with increases in dopamine release. Conversely, decreases in dopamine within reward systems are associated with depression, a lack of pleasure or motivation, and withdrawal.

We all experience pleasure differently as a result of individual differences in biology or neurochemistry, but also as a result of past experiences (no longer liking a food that previously made you sick), and differing social and cultural factors.

For example, musical preferences seem to be shaped more by upbringing than by biological factors. So while some may get a greater hit of dopamine from buying a new handbag, others may get it from placing a bet on a sports match.

Poker machines are designed to tap into our reward centres. Credit: krissia cruz unsplash

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

When we make decisions, some are habitual and less reliant on pleasure, and some are more goal-directed. Most of us would probably love to eat ice cream for lunch every day because it tastes good, and sugar releases dopamine in reward systems. But we know if we ate ice cream every day we would put on weight, become less healthy and feel worse because of it. This knowledge takes some of the pleasure out of it and makes us less likely to want all of the time.

The cognitive processes behind goal-directed behaviour involve determining the value of the potential outcomes and forming a strategy that maximises our ability to achieve the most valuable outcome. And if we make the same enough times and the outcomes stay the same, our decisions become less goal-directed and more habitual in nature.

But certain choices do not always lead to a positive outcome. In these cases, over time we learn which outcome provides the best overall reward. We then guide our decisions towards this outcome, even if occasionally it does not result in a positive outcome.

Gambling is a good example of how this process can become problematic. Poker machines provide a positive outcome just often enough to keep you playing, even though they are programmed so that you lose money in the long run.

When decision-making goes wrong

Having issues at any point in the decision-making process can lead to pathological behaviour. Addiction is categorised by a single-minded focus on obtaining the next exposure or "hit" (be it drugs, a pokies win, sex). So much so the individual makes bad decisions in order to attain this particular outcome, even if they no longer find it that pleasurable.

We still know little of how addictive behaviours start and persist, but genetic and environmental factors can put someone at a greater risk. For example, finding a certain drug more pleasurable (due to differing drug metabolism or an increased dopamine response) places a greater value on its use, which can lead to continued consumption. This may become addictive if the behaviour becomes more habitual and less sensitive to bad outcomes and experiences.

Dopamine release is essential for the rewarding response we feel toward a particular outcome and inflating the "wanting" of that experience. Because this drives continued use, dopamine release in reward systems is important for the development of addictive behaviours.

However, by placing a much greater level of value on the outcome (so it appears the best option in nearly any comparison), and accelerating habit formation (so the negative consequences of this decision are ignored), the brain warps its own decision-making capabilities. At this point, attaining the outcome in question becomes less about dopamine release and more of a subconscious drive. Therefore, statements like "just stop using drugs or doing x" are of little use.

This is why multiple approaches are required to treat addictive behaviours. There is a quest to develop medications that adjust the neurochemical balance to weaken these habitual behaviours. Inevitably, these will require other interventions such as and to help retrain the brain and improve decision-making capabilities.

Explore further: New study describes how dopamine tells you it isn't worth the wait

Noninvasive spinal stimulation method enables paralyzed people to regain use of hands, study finds

Drotumdi O

April 26, 2018 by Stuart Wolpert, University of California, Los Angeles
More than 1.2 million Americans are living with paralysis from spinal cord injuries, which results in loss of the ability to perform such tasks as opening a water bottle. Credit: paylessimages/iStockphoto

The ability to perform simple daily tasks can make a big difference in people's lives, especially for those with spinal cord injuries. A UCLA-led team of scientists reports that six people with severe spinal cord injuries—three of them completely paralyzed—have regained use of their hands and fingers for the first time in years after undergoing a nonsurgical, noninvasive spinal stimulation procedure the researchers developed.

At the beginning of the study, three of the participants could not move their fingers at all, and none could turn a doorknob with one hand or twist a cap off a plastic water bottle. Each of them also had great difficulty using a cellphone. After only eight researcher-led training sessions with the spinal stimulation, all six individuals showed substantial improvements. The study participants had chronic and severe paralysis for more than one year, and some for more than 10 years.

From before the first session to the end of the last session, the participants improved their .

"About midway through the sessions, I could open my bedroom door with my left hand for the first time since my and could open new water bottles, when previously someone else had to do this for me," said Cecilia Villarruel, one of the participants, whose injury resulted from a car accident 13 years earlier. "Most people with a injury say they just want to go to the bathroom like a normal person again," she said. "Small accomplishments like opening jars, bottles and doors enable a level of independence and self-reliance that is quite satisfying, and have a profound effect on people's lives."

In addition to regaining use of their fingers, the research subjects also gained other health benefits, including improved blood pressure, bladder function, cardiovascular function and the ability to sit upright without support.

"Within two or three sessions, everyone started showing significant improvements, and kept improving from there," said the study's lead author, UCLA research scientist Parag Gad.

"After just eight sessions, they could do things they haven't been able to do for years," said V. Reggie Edgerton, senior author of the research and a UCLA distinguished professor of integrative biology and physiology, neurobiology and neurosurgery.

This is the largest reported recovery of the use of hands that has been reported in patients with such severe spinal cord injuries, Edgerton said.

The researchers placed electrodes on the skin to stimulate the circuitry of the spinal cord. They call their method "transcutaneous enabling motor control," or tEmc. In the stimulation, electrical current is applied at varying frequencies and intensities to specific locations on the spinal cord.

In the training sessions, the participants squeezed a small gripping device 36 times (18 times with each hand) and held their grip for three seconds; the researchers measured the amount of force they used. The training consisted of two sessions a week over four weeks; the eight sessions each lasted about 90 minutes.

A video from the Edgerton Lab at UCLA shows activity before and after the stimulation therapy. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles

"The combination of spinal stimulation plus training with the hands allows them to regain the lost function," Gad said. They were less dependent on their caregivers, and could feed and dress themselves, he added.

Two of the six returned to Edgerton's laboratory 60 days after the training ended and maintained their grip strength; they could turn a doorknob with one hand, twist off a bottle cap and use a fork with one hand. (The four others did not return to the laboratory. The research subjects live in New York, Minnesota and elsewhere.)

The research is published online this month in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

More than 1.2 million Americans are living with paralysis from spinal cord injuries, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have lost control of vital body functions due to such injuries, including use of their hands and fingers.

"Improved function can mean the difference between needing around-the-clock care and living more independently," said Peter Wilderotter, president and CEO of the Reeve Foundation. "These findings bring great hope to those who were told recovery following paralysis would be impossible. As new discoveries and breakthroughs are uncovered, it is clear the word 'impossible' no longer applies to spinal cord injury."

Edgerton's research team has worked with more than two dozen people with severe , the vast majority of whom have shown substantial improvements.

"Nearly everyone thought the only people who would benefit from treatment were those who had been injured for less than a year; that was the dogma. Now we know the dogma is dead," said Edgerton, who is also affiliated with the University of Technology Sydney's Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine in Australia. "All of our subjects have been paralyzed for more than a year. We know that in a high percentage of subjects who are severely injured, we can improve their quality of life."

Edgerton is seeking FDA approval for the motor control device so that it can be used by rehabilitation clinics and others. He is able to accept only a small number of people into his research program.

The spinal stimulation approach is inexpensive, does not require surgery and can be used in poor communities and countries without advanced medical facilities—"and the effects are in some ways, we think, better than surgery," Edgerton said.

"I get criticized a lot for giving 'false hope' but we follow where the science tells us to go and just give the research results," Edgerton said. "Everything is telling us the nervous system is much more adaptable than we've given it credit for, and can relearn and recover from severe injury."

Explore further: Epidural stimulation shown to normalize blood pressure following spinal cord injury

More information: Parag Gad et al. Noninvasive activation of cervical spinal networks after severe paralysis, Journal of Neurotrauma (2018). DOI: 10.1089/neu.2017.5461

Music activates regions of the brain spared by Alzheimer's disease

Drotumdi O

April 27, 2018, University of Utah Health
Diagram of brain networks involved in processing attention. Credit: Brain Network Lab

Ever get chills listening to a particularly moving piece of music? You can thank the salience network of the brain for that emotional joint. Surprisingly, this region also remains an island of remembrance that is spared from the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at the University of Utah Health are looking to this region of the brain to develop music-based treatments to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. Their research will appear in the April online issue of The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease.

"People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety" said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributing author on the study. "We believe will tap into the salience network of the that is still relatively functioning."

Previous work demonstrated the effect of a personalized music program on mood for dementia . This study set out to examine a mechanism that activates the attentional network in the salience region of the brain. The results offer a new way to approach anxiety, depression and agitation in patients with dementia. Activation of neighboring regions of the brain may also offer opportunities to delay the continued decline caused by the disease.

For three weeks, the researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a loaded with the self-selected collection of music.

"When you put headphones on and play familiar music, they come alive," said Jace King, a graduate student in the Brain Network Lab and first author on the paper. "Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality."

The shaded areas of the brain were particularly activated by familiar music. This region is called the supplementary motor area, and is involved in processing attention in the brain. Credit: Brain Network Lab

Using a functional MRI, the researchers scanned the patients to image the regions of the brain that lit up when they listened to 20-second clips of music versus silence. The researchers played eight clips of music from the patient's music collection, eight clips of the same music played in reverse and eight blocks of silence. The researchers compared the images from each scan.

The researchers found that music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate. By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity.

"This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer's disease," said Norman Foster, M.D., Director of the Center for Alzheimer's Care at U of U Health and senior author on the paper. "Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment."

However, these results are by no means conclusive. The researchers note the small sample size (17 participants) for this study. In addition, the study only included a single imaging session for each patient. It is remains unclear whether the effects identified in this study persist beyond a brief period of stimulation or whether other areas of memory or mood are enhanced by changes in neural activation and connectivity for the long term.

"In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max," Anderson said. "No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer's disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient's quality of life."

Explore further: Baycrest launches study combining music and brain stimulation to improve memory

Provided by: University of Utah Health

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Spirtual Garden - Human Electric Energy

Drotumdi O

http://www.spiritualgarden.net/info/human+electricity.html

Human Electric Energy

Nerve impulses are electrical energy signals; and, they creates energy-fields around the body and electro-magnetic energy waves that can travel away from the body.

Nerve Impulses - Electricity in the Body

A nerve impulse, demonstrates human electricity in the body.
Image originally from the Science Museum website.

Human electricity energy is generated by chemical processes in nerve cells. Billions of nerve impulses travel throughout the human brain and nervous system. A nerve impulse is a wave of electrical activity that passes from one end of nerve cell to another. Each impulse is the same size it; it is the frequency, impulses per second, that carries information about the intensity of the nerve signal.

Neurons are the basic unit of the nervous system. Neurons are responsible for sending, receiving, and interpreting information from all parts of the body.

Nerve impulses are electrical energy signals; and, they creates energy-fields around the body and electro-magnetic energy waves that can travel away from the body.

Nerve Impulses - Electricity in the Body

Human electricity energy is generated by chemical processes in nerve cells. Billions of nerve impulses travel throughout the human brain and nervous system. A nerve impulse is a wave of electrical activity that passes from one end of nerve cell to another. Each impulse is the same size it; it is the frequency, impulses per second, that carries information about the intensity of the nerve signal.

Neurons are the basic unit of the nervous system. Neurons are responsible for sending, receiving, and interpreting information from all parts of the body.

Technical info: Neurons

Transparent body showing the nervous system, electricity system throughout body creating the human electromagnetic field.Nervous System - Human Electrical System

The nervous system is a network of cells called neurons which transmit information in the form of electrical signals. In the brain alone there are around 100 billion and there is a similar amount in the nervous system tissues throughout the rest of the body.

  • Nerves for relaying information to and from the senses.
  • Nerves for controlling the internal functions of the body.
  • Nerves for muscle movement.
  • Nerves for thinking.

Image originally from
the Science Museum website.


Technical info: The Central and Peripheral Nervous systems


Human Magnetism - Electro-magnetic Field

Electricity passing through a wire creates a magnetism; human electricity can create a human magnetism.
Image from the
Science360 website.

human electro magnetic field around the body.As electricity passes through a metal wire it causes an energy field or magnetic field. In a similar way, human electricity in the brain and nervous system creates human magnetic fields. There are billions of nerve impulses in the body and these are constantly creating complex human magnetic fields.

The human heart is a source of electro-magnetism that, even at a few meters away, is detectable by modern scientific instruments.


Magnetic Induction- Energy Transfer

Electromagnetic induction where energy transers from one wire into another.The image on the right shows an input electric current producing a magnetic field around one wire; this field passes through another wire and creates an output electric current. In physical science, this is called magnetic induction.

Similarly, to magnetic induction in metal wires, the human electromagnetic field can be felt, or can influence, other people who are standing by. From your experience, do some people create a feeling within you when you are close by?

  • When close to some people, you may feel as if your body and mind becomes more energised, more hopeful and optimistic.
  • When close to other people, you may feel as if your energy drains away, a depressing or lazy feeling.


Electricity Waves - Energy Travel over a Long Distance

energy wave, demonstrates that human electricity may also transmit to great distances.
Image originally from the NASA website.

Electric force can transform into different types of energy waves, such as heat, radiation, radio and micro waves; and these energy waves can travel a long distance.

A changing magnetic field will induce a changing electric field and vice-versa, the two are linked. These changing fields form electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves can travel not only through air and solid materials, but also through space.

The human nervous system can create electric energy waves that can be measured with scientific instruments. The human body produces infra-red radiation that, with night vision equipment, can be seen from miles away.


This page is part of our human nerve force energy + proper breathing lesson, because there is a special metaphysical nerve force energy in the human nervous system and brain which has properties similar to electricity.

More Spiritual Energy

Human Nerve Force Energy + Proper Breathing

This lesson explains the spiritual-science of human nerve-force energy and the link to breathing. Proper breathing and some mind techniques increases the supply and power of human nerve force energy; this enhances potential for spiritual self development.

This Lesson :-

  • Human Electricity: Nerve impulses within the brain and nervous system are electrical energy, they create electro-magnetic fields and energy waves that can travel away from the body.
  • Metaphysic Energy: The energy in the brain and nervous system is more than just electricity, there is a spiritual science metaphysical explanation for it. (Nerve force, Vital force, Od force, Prana, Chi)
  • Human Magnetism: Nerve force energy creates human magnetism. It can be strengthened and enhanced which develops a personal magnetism that is very helpful for spiritual development.
  • Breathing Anatomy: The human system for breathing, nose, lungs, and diaphragm. Using these properly improves health and it increases the supply of metaphysical nerve force energy.
  • Breathing Properly: Good and bad ways of breathing. We recommend the complete and rhythmic method because it maximises the supply of human nerve force energy.
  • Breathing Exercises: Proper, full, and rhythmic breathing exercise, the method for absorbing more nerve force energy into your body.

Rabbit icon

Read what Mr Rabbit says... click here.

This is the first lesson in the spiritual garden with six pages to read that lead you to understanding about the mysterious human energy of nerve force and how to get more of it.

Summary: Our sources of wisdom explain that, nerve energy in the human brain and nervous system is more than just electricity created by chemical processes. They give a metaphysical, or a spiritual-science, explanation for it and explain methods for increasing its power. Human nerve energy has some mysterious properties and can be strengthened and controlled by the mind.

Hint: Before going too deep, before getting too complicated, it is best to get the basic steps well practiced. Get to it; use all your lungs, try both our breathing rhythm suggestions; in particular, discover how you breathe to recover after periods of intense body and mind activity.

EDINFORMATICS.COM
THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM

What are electromagnetic waves?

An electromagnetic wave as the name suggests is both an electric and magnetic wave.

An electromagnetic wave consists of an electric field and a magnetic field at right angles to each other and to the direction of the motion of the wave.

Because the electric and magnetic fields are at right angles to the direction of the wave, the electromagnetic wave is a transverse wave .

Image: Nasa for kids

Electromagnetic radiation is classified into types according to the frequency of the wave: these types include, in order of increasing frequency, radio waves, microwaves, terahertz radiation, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.

Unlike other waves, electromagnetic waves to not carry energy by causing matter to vibrate. It is the electric and magnetic fields that vibrate. This is the reason why electromagnetic waves can travel in a vacuum where there is no matter.

Is light a particle or wave?

Light has both wave and particle properties. This is also the case for all matter. Electromagnetic radiation can be considered to consist of particle-like packets of wave-energy called photons. These massless particles travel at the speed of light (300,000 kilometers per second in a vacuum).

Every photon is characterized by wavelength (the distance from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next wave), by frequency (the number of wave cycles that pass by in a given period, measured in Hertz, which stands for cycles per second), and by the energy it carries (measured in electron volts).

What is the relationship between wavelength, frequency and energy of Electromagnetic Radiation?

The Planck constant (denoted h), also called Planck's constant, is a physical constant reflecting the sizes of quanta in quantum mechanics. It is named after Max Planck, one of the founders of quantum theory. The Planck constant was first described as the proportionality constant between the energy (E) of a photon and the frequency of its associated electromagnetic wave (v). This relation between the energy and frequency is called the Planck relation or the Planck–Einstein equation.

The higher the frequency of light, the higher its energy. Higher frequencies mean shorter wavelengths. We can also say that E = h c / lambda (lamda is the wavelength). High frequency light has short wavelengths and high energy. X-rays or gamma-rays are examples of this. Radio waves are examples of light with a long wavelength, low frequency, and low energy.

How are electromagnetic waves produced?

Electrons are charged particles that can produce both an electric and magnetic field. In order for electrons however to produce electric or magnetic fields they must be in motion. A charged particle such as an electron that moves back and forth creates both electric and magnetic fields.

The source of all electromagnetic waves is charge that is changing speed or direction.

Visible light is produced by electrons moving from one electronic state to another

When a ground state electron is excited it absorbs a photon. The energy of the photon is equal to the energy needed to maintain the electron at the higher orbital.

When the electron returns to the ground state it will emit the photon.

Image source:
NASA

The electromagnetic spectrum is a continuum of all electromagnetic waves arranged according to frequency and wavelength. The sun, earth, and other bodies radiate electromagnetic energy of varying wavelengths.

Images: NASA for kids

The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to (can be detected by) the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light.

Remember the visible spectrum as--

ROYGBIV

What are the different types of Electromagnetic Waves?

Radio Waves -- The waves in the electromagnetic spectrum that have the longest wavelengths and lowest frequency are called radio waves. Radio waves are used to transmit information from the antenna of a broadcasting station to the antenna of your radio or TV. In astronomy radio waves are used to gain information from distant stars using radio telescopes. Radio telescopes have the advantage that radio waves are not blocked by conditions of the Earth's atmosphere as light waves are.

Microwaves -- are the highest frequency of radiowaves. Their wavelength is only a few centimeters long. While microwaves pass right through some materials they absorbed by others. Water and some other molecules found in food absorb microwaves and turn the energy into heat. This is what makes a microwave oven work. Glass and plastic do not absorb microwaves so do not heat up. Metal however does absorb microwaves and that is why we can't put it inside a microwave oven. Short wavelength microwaves are used in radar devices. Radar works by sending out short pulses of radio waves and recording the time it takes for the reflected wave to be picked up by the receiver.

Infrared ---lies between the visible and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Shorter, near infrared waves are not hot at all - in fact you cannot even feel them. These shorter wavelengths are the ones used by your TV's remote control. Far infrared waves we experience every day in the form of heat. The heat that we feel from sunlight, a fire, a radiator or a warm sidewalk is infrared.

Visible-- waves are the only electromagnetic waves we can see. We see these waves as the colors of the rainbow. Each color has a different wavelength. Red has the longest wavelength and violet has the shortest wavelength. When all the waves are seen together, they make white light.

Ultraviolet (UV) light-- is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 . Though these waves are invisible to the human eye, some insects, like bumblebees, can see them. It is ultraviolet waves that are responsible for causing our sunburns. UV light cannot pass through glass unless it is made of quartz.

X- Rays -- have smaller wavelengths and therefore higher energy than ultraviolet waves. We usually talk about X-rays in terms of their energy rather than wavelength. X-rays are most known for their use in medicine. Because your bones and teeth are dense and absorb more X-rays then your skin does, images of your bones or teeth are left on the X-ray film while your skin appears transparent.

Gamma Rays -- have the smallest wavelengths and the most energy of any other wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves are generated by radioactive atoms and in nuclear explosions. Gamma-rays can kill living cells, a fact which medicine uses to its advantage, using gamma-rays to kill cancerous cells.

SOURCES AND READINGS:

Electromagnetic Spectrum -- NASA



Test your Understanding:
1. Which color light has the longest wavelength?
a) Yellow
b) Red
c) Violet
d) Blue

2. Which is true about the properties of light?
a) Water is the only liquid that light can pass through
b) Light only exhibits wave properties
c) Light has both wave and particle properties
d) Light only exhibits particle properties

3. When an atom is excited with light and an electron jumps to a higher energy level
a) a photon will immediately be emitted from the atom
b) a photon more than the energy needed to maintain the electron at the higher orbital must be absorbed.
c) a photon equal to the energy needed to maintain the electron at the higher orbital must be absorbed.
d) a photon less than the energy needed to maintain the electron at the higher orbital must be absorbed.

4. What type of radiation will most likely be released from radioactive material.
a) radio waves
b) microwaves
c) ultraviolet
d) gamma rays

5. Why can you can feel the warmth of the sun through a window but won't get a tan from the Sun?
a) infrared or the tanning rays are blocked by the glass while UV light which can pass through glass feels warm
b) infrared light which feels warm can pass through glass but UV light which tans cannot pass through glass
c) both infrared and ultraviolet rays pass through the window but not in sufficient amounts to produce a tan
d) both infrared and ultraviolet light which are needed for tanning are absorbed by glass -- visible light provides the heat

Reference:

What Are Cosmic Rays?

By Elizabeth Howell, Space.com Contributor |


What Are Cosmic Rays?

Showers of high energy particles occur when energetic cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth's atmosphere. Most cosmic rays are atomic nuclei: most are hydrogen nuclei, some are helium nuclei, and the rest heavier elements. Although many of the low energy cosmic rays come from our Sun, the origins of the highest energy cosmic rays remains unknown and a topic of much research. This drawing illustrates air showers from very high energy cosmic rays.

Credit: Simon Swordy (U. Chicago), NASA

Cosmic rays are atom fragments that rain down on the Earth from outside of the solar system. They blaze at the speed of light and have been blamed for electronics problems in satellites and other machinery.

First discovered in 1912, many things about cosmic rays remain a mystery more than a century later. One prime example is exactly where they are coming from. Most scientists suspect their origins are related to supernovas (star explosions), but the challenge is that cosmic ray origins appear uniform when you look across the entire sky.

History

While cosmic rays were only discovered in the 1900s, scientists knew something mysterious was going on as early as the 1780s. That's when French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb — best known for having a unit of electrical charge named after him — observed an electrically charged sphere suddenly and mysteriously not being charged any more.

At the time, air was thought to be an insulator and not an electric conductor. With more work, however, scientists discovered that air can conduct electricity if its molecules are charged or ionized. This would most commonly happen when the molecules interact with charged particles or X-rays.

But where these charged particles came from was a mystery; even attempts to block the charge with large amounts of lead were coming up empty. On Aug. 7, 1912, physicist Victor Hess flew a high-altitude balloon to 17,400 feet (5,300 meters). He discovered three times more ionizing radiation there than on the ground, which meant the radiation had to be coming from outer space.

But tracing cosmic ray "origin stories" took more than a century. In 2013, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope released results from observing two supernova remnants in the Milky Way: IC 433 and W44.

Among the products of these star explosions are gamma-ray photons, which (unlike cosmic rays) are not affected by magnetic fields. The gamma rays studied had the same energy signature as subatomic particles called neutral pions. Pions are produced when protons get stuck in a magnetic field inside the shockwave of the supernova and crash into each other.

In other words, the matching energy signatures showed that protons could move at fast enough speeds within supernovas to create cosmic rays.

Current science

We know today that galactic cosmic rays are atom fragments such as protons (positively charged particles), electrons (negatively charged particles) and atomic nuclei. While we know now they can be created in supernovas, there may be other sources available for cosmic ray creation. It also isn't clear exactly how supernovas are able to make these cosmic rays so fast.

Cosmic rays constantly rain down on Earth, and while the high-energy "primary" rays collide with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere and rarely make it through to the ground, "secondary" particles are ejected from this collision and do reach us on the ground.

But by the time these cosmic rays get to Earth, it's impossible to trace where they came from. That's because their path has been changed as they travelled through multiple magnetic fields (the galaxy's, the solar system's and Earth's itself.)

According to NASA, cosmic rays therefore come equally from all directions of the sky. So scientists are trying to trace back cosmic ray origins by looking at what the cosmic rays are made of. Scientists can figure this out by looking at the spectroscopic "signature" each nucleus gives off in radiation, and also by weighing the different isotopes (types) of elements that hit cosmic ray detectors.

The result, NASA adds, shows very common elements in the universe. Roughly 90 percent of cosmic ray nuclei are hydrogen (protons) and 9 percent are helium (alpha particles). Hydrogen and helium are the most abundant elements in the universe and the origin point for stars, galaxies and other large structures. The remaining 1 percent are all elements, and it's from that 1 percent that scientists can best search for rare elements to make comparisons between different types of cosmic rays.

Scientists can also date the cosmic rays by looking at radioactive nuclei that decrease over time. Measuring the "half life" of each nuclei gives an estimate of how long the cosmic ray has been out there in space.

Space radiation concerns

Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere shields the planet from 99.9 percent of the radiation from space. However, for people outside the protection of Earth's magnetic field, space radiation becomes a serious hazard. An instrument aboard the Curiosity Mars rover during its 253-day cruise to Mars revealed that the radiation dose received by an astronaut on even the shortest Earth-Mars round trip would be about 0.66 sievert. This amount is like receiving a whole-body CT scan every five or six days.

A dose of 1 sievert is associated with a 5.5 percent increase in the risk of fatal cancers. The normal daily radiation dose received by the average person living on Earth is 10 microsieverts (0.00001 sievert).

The moon has no atmosphere and a very weak magnetic field. Astronauts living there would have to provide their own protection, for example by burying their habitat underground.

The planet Mars has no global magnetic field. Particles from the sun have stripped away most of Mars’ atmosphere, resulting in very poor protection against radiation at the surface. The highest air pressure on Mars is equal to that at an altitude of 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface. At low altitudes, Mars’ atmosphere provides slightly better protection from space radiation.

New Lyme Disease Tests Could Offer Quicker, More Accurate Detection

Drotumdi O

Newswise — New tests to detect early Lyme disease – which is increasing beyond the summer months – could replace existing tests that often do not clearly identify the infection before health problems occur.

In an analysis published on December 7 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, scientists from Rutgers University, Harvard University, Yale University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health and other academic centers, industry and public health agencies say new diagnostic methods offer a better chance for more accurate detection of the infection from the Lyme bacteria.

“New tests are at hand that offer more accurate, less ambiguous test results that can yield actionable results in a timely fashion,” said Steven Schutzer, a physician-scientist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and senior author. “Improved tests will allow for earlier diagnosis, which should improve patient outcomes.”

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in North America and Europe. There are currently over 300,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the United States alone, and the disease is increasing and spreading into new regions. Lyme disease frequently, but not always, presents with a bull’s-eye rash. When the rash is absent, a laboratory test is needed. 

The only FDA-approved Lyme disease tests, based on technology developed more than two decades ago, rely on detecting antibodies that the body’s immune system makes in response to the disease. These antibody-based tests are the most commonly used tests for Lyme disease and are the current standard.

[[image:2:right:35]]One problem, however, is that many people produce similar – called “cross-reactive” – antibodies in response to other bacteria not associated with Lyme disease, which causes confusing results and makes test accuracy more difficult.

“New tests are more exact and are not as susceptible to the same false-positive or false-negative results associated with current tests.” said Schutzer. 

Schutzer and his colleagues say more accurate testing would help doctors decide when to prescribe the antibiotics used to clear the infection and help avoid severe long-term health problems. Antibody tests, can take three weeks or more for the antibody levels to reach a point where the tests can pick up a positive result.

Those involved in the paper joined forces after meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center, a nonprofit research institution in New York.  The meeting organized and chaired by Schutzer and John A. Branda, assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, focused on current Lyme disease tests and new scientific advances made in increasing the accuracy of the diagnosis.

“This meeting and paper resulting from it are particularly significant,” said Jan Witkowski, professor in the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory who along with Nobel Laureate James Watson asked Schutzer to lead several symposia. “The participants noted that there are greatly improved diagnostic tests for Lyme disease that can be implemented now, and that the way is open to the development of further tests.”

 

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY

Looking Past Peer Influence: Genetic Contributions to Increases in Teen Substance Use?

Drotumdi O

ximage.php,qimage=,_images,_uploads,_2018,_04,_24,_substance-use-newsdesk.jpg,awidth=502,aheight=334.pagespeed.ic.RrRrvPm_8I.jpg

Newswise — Parents and adults spend a lot of time worrying about the influence of friends and peers when it comes to teen substance use – drinking alcohol, binge drinking, marijuana use and other illicit drugs. Is it all about an adolescent’s environment, their friends, peers and family, or is there a genetic component that drives their desire for risk taking and novelty?

Teen substance use typically begins in early adolescence and increases linearly – both in terms of prevalence rates and frequency of use – until late adolescence, when a majority of teens report prior use of alcohol or illicit drugs. Conventional wisdom would argue that part of the reason substance use increases in teens is due to their experiences outside of the home, such as their friends and peers. If they hang out with teens who drink, they will probably drink themselves and vice versa. However, to really understand the importance of external influences like peers, you have to account for the influence of genetic factors.

Investigators used a unique sample of twins from Quebec who have been followed since birth. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and collaborators from the University of Montreal, the University of Quebec, and Laval University, in Canada, looked at the relative role of genetics and environment as sources of influence on individual differences in the development of substance use between early adolescence (age 13) and late adolescence (age 17) in 476 twin pairs (475 boys, 477 girls).

For the study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, the researchers examined the relative effects of genetic factors as well as shared environmental factors (i.e., environmental experiences, often within the family and at home, that are shared between the two twins) and non-shared environmental factors (i.e., environmental experiences, often outside the family/home, that are unique to each child) on the frequency and rate of increase of substance use in adolescents. Twins studies, which compare genetically identical twins with fraternal twins who share only about 50 percent of their genes, provide the optimal way to tease genetic effects from the environmental effects.

Similar to previous studies, results from the new study show that alcohol and marijuana use increased from early to late adolescence. Genetic as well as shared and non-shared environmental factors explained the amount of substance use; these same factors also partly accounted for inter-individual differences in growth in substance use from ages 13 to 17. Importantly, the researchers’ analyses also revealed genetic influences that are unique to the growth in substance use. With each passing year, genetic differences between individuals become more and more important in explaining why substance use increases in some adolescents but not in others.

“Inheritance becomes increasingly more important in terms of determining drinking and drug use as adolescents get older,” said Brett Laursen, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor and graduate studies coordinator in the Department of Psychology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “It’s a mistake for us to just assume that peers are the only factor responsible for the growth of substance use.”

The researchers caution that preventive programs that target personal and familial risk link to substance use may not be optimally effective unless they are complimented by intervention programs that specifically target risk factors related to age specific genetic and non-shared environmental influences.

“We can’t take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for intervention programs across age groups,” said Laursen. “We need to recognize that at each age period different risk factors are associated with substance use, because non-shared and genetic factors change with age. We shouldn’t just assume that the same interventions are going to work at different age periods, because there appears to be different risk factors predicting substance use at different age periods.”

Study co-authors are Frank Vitaro, Ph.D., lead author, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada; Daniel J. Dickson, who received his Ph.D. at FAU; Mara Brendgen, Ph.D., University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada; and Ginette Dionne, Ph.D., and Michel Boivin, Ph.D., Laval University, Quebec, Canada.

- FAU -

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.

 

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY

Mediterranean Diet Boosts Beneficial Bacteria

Drotumdi O

In the pre-clinical study, non-human primates were randomized to either Western or Mediterranean diet groups and studied for 30 months. The Western diet consisted of lard, beef tallow, butter, eggs, cholesterol, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, while the Mediterranean diet consisted of fish oil, olive oil, fish meal, butter, eggs, black and garbanzo bean flour, wheat flour, vegetable juice, fruit puree and sucrose. The diets had the same number of calories.

At the end of the 30 months, Yadav’s team analyzed the gut microbiome – the good and bad bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract – in both diet groups through fecal samples. They found the gut bacteria diversity in the Mediterranean diet group was significantly higher than in the group that ate the Western diet.

“We have about 2 billion good and bad bacteria living in our gut,” Yadav said. “If the bacteria are of a certain type and not properly balanced, our health can suffer.

“Our study showed that the good bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus, most of which are probiotic, were significantly increased in the Mediterranean diet group.”

The data revealed in this study should be useful for further studies aimed at understanding the diet-microbiome-health interactions in humans, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and psychiatric disorders, Yadav said.

This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant R01 HL087103 (CAS), R01 HL122393 (TCR), and the Pepper Older Americans for Independence Center (P30 AG21332), as well funds and services provided by the Center for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, at Wake Forest Baptist and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health-funded Wake Forest Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WF CTSI) through Grant Award Number UL1TR001420.

Co-authors are: Ravinder Nagpal, Ph.D., Carol A. Shively, Ph.D., Susan A. Appt, D.V.M, Thomas C. Register, Ph.D., Kristofer T. Michalson, D.V.M., and Mara Z. Vitolins, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist.

 

UCLA Research May Explain Some Causes of Infertility and Miscarriage Study examines how early embryonic development can go awry

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A new study in the journal Nature Cell Biology has uncovered information about a key stage that human embryonic cells must pass through just before an embryo implants. The research, led by UCLA biologist Amander Clark, could help explain certain causes of infertility and spontaneous miscarriage.

Infertility affects around 10 percent of the U.S. population, and roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage. In many cases, the causes of infertility and miscarriage are unknown.

A team led by Clark, a UCLA professor of molecular cell and developmental biology and member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, set out to find how epigenomic changes — non-genetic influences on gene expression — in human embryonic stem cells could explain why some embryos are not viable.

They started by analyzing cells within the early embryo; these cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can turn into any cell within the human body.

“For many years, researchers thought that human pluripotency was a single state,” Clark said. “However, over the past three years, the field has discovered that human pluripotency involves at least two major states, and as embryos grow the stem cells pass through these two different states of pluripotency on the way to the embryo establishing a pregnancy.”

After a human embryo is fertilized and before it implants in the uterine lining, cells in the embryo are in a very immature state of pluripotency called the “naive” state. Little is known about the naive state, but scientists believe that if embryonic cells cannot first enter this state, the embryo is not viable and a miscarriage would occur. Around the time an embryo implants, its cells enter the “primed” state. Primed cells are ready to differentiate into all of the various cell types in the body.

“Although no one knows exactly why the naive state of pluripotency exists, or what helps naive cells stay in that state for a period of time, it could be to provide a protective mechanism that prevents the embryonic cells from differentiating too quickly, which would ensure the timing of implantation is right,” Clark said.

To better understand what helps regulate the naive state, the researchers compared epigenomic changes in lab-created naive and primed embryonic stem cells. They discovered that both cell types have different sequences of open chromatin throughout their DNA. Chromatin consists of DNA and protein that condense to form the chromosomes within a cell’s nucleus.

Unique sequences of open chromatin within any cell type act as bar codes. Gene-regulating proteins called transcription factors in the open areas of chromatin “scan” the bar code and then bind to it, which influences genetic activity in the cell.

“We looked specifically at open chromatin and found a bar code that is unique to naive embryonic stem cells repeated over and over again, so we asked what transcription factor recognizes that bar code,” Clark said.

The researchers discovered that a transcription factor called TFAP2C recognizes the bar code. To learn more about its specific role, they deleted the gene that makes the TFAP2C protein from both primed and naive embryonic stem cells in the laboratory using a gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.

They found that the deletion had no effect on primed stem cells. Conversely, when TFAP2C was deleted from naive stem cells, the areas of open chromatin associated with the naive state closed and the naive stem cells passed into a primed state.

The research also revealed about 1,500 regions of open chromatin that are very sensitive to the loss of TFAP2C and showed that there are hundreds of genes associated with early embryonic development in those areas.

“We’ve discovered that the presence of TFAP2C marks an important difference between the naive and primed states of pluripotency, and that TFAP2C is necessary to maintain the naive state of pluripotency,” Clark said. “We also showed that without TFAP2C, hundreds of genes aren’t expressed correctly, which would most likely result in early miscarriage.”

In addition, the researchers verified that the regions of open chromatin present in lab-created naive embryonic stem cells are also present in embryos before the stage associated with implantation.

“Our findings are relevant to the natural process of human development because they match up with what we see in human pre-implantation embryos,” Clark said. “This provides new information about a time in the lifecycle that we know little about. Fundamental knowledge like this could help better predict infertility or embryo quality.”

The study also could lead to important advances in an area of medicine that historically has been underfunded and underappreciated — in part because the subject of infertility is sometimes seen as taboo and because it doesn’t attract the attention of deadly diseases like cancer.

“People who experience infertility and miscarriage may tell close friends or family, but too often, these issues are not discussed,” Clark said. “But infertility is a significant health concern. It deserves our attention, and we as a society need to be more open about it.”

The pluripotent stem cell research was supported by the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, the Chinese Scholarship Council, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, the Silvia and Charles Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowships and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The human embryo research was funded by the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center and its training program. 

American Bedtime Habits

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  • A new study by Johns Hopkins researchers confirm that teens’ sleep-wake cycles are naturally delayed, suggesting that later school start times may help teens meet their physiological sleep needs.

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Newswise — A new analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers of national data gathered from physical activity monitors concludes that most Americans hit the sack later on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Delayed bedtimes are especially pronounced for teens and young adults.

A report of the findings, published in the April issue of Chronobiology International, adds evidence to support recent pushes for later school start times, say researchers from the Johns Hopkins Wearable and Implantable Technology group. 

“While most other studies have measured the timing and duration of bedtime through self-reports, we believe this is the first large-scale study to look at all days of the week separately and to use physical activity monitors to objectively determine gender-specific bedtime preferences and their changes over life span,” says Jacek Urbanek, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s first author.

Chronic sleep deprivation, often compensated with oversleeping on weekend nights, has been linked in previous research to depression, smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse, as well as being significantly overweight and less physically active in adolescents. In adults, sleep deprivation and sleep irregularities have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, diabetes and premature mortality.

For the study, Urbanek and colleagues used data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a collection of wide-ranging health information from the United States population, to examine bedtime preferences for 11,951 participants ranging from 6 to 84 years old.

Each participant wore an accelerometer, a research-grade device similar to commercial fitness monitors, which measured physical activity for seven consecutive days. All participants received in-person instructions to take the devices off before going to bed and put them back on upon waking up.

For the analysis, the researchers considered the bedtime nonwear periods as objective bedtime (OBT) and used the OBT’s midpoint (OBT-M) as a measure of chronotype, or a person’s preference for timing of sleep.

“If you would like to compare the preference for timing of sleep of two people who get exactly the same, say, eight hours of sleep, but one goes to bed at midnight and wakes up at 8 a.m., and the other one goes to bed at 2 a.m. and wakes up at 10 a.m., you can use sleep midpoints that are 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., respectively. The midpoint on work- or school-free days is supposed to capture personal preferences for timing of sleep, which is controlled by circadian clock and which is different from total sleep duration controlled by homeostasis,” explains Vadim Zipunnikov, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the paper’s senior author.

By measuring such midpoints, the research team found that for all age groups, people on average went to bed later on Friday, even later on Saturday, and a bit less later on Sunday nights compared with weekday nights. The disparities were largest in teenagers and young adults, peaking at about 19 years old with on average 60-, 75- and 30-minute later bedtime midpoints on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, respectively.

“Despite the need to get up for work or school the next morning, Sunday midpoints are still significantly later, arguably because of oversleeping on Friday and Saturday nights. This means that a lot of people likely start their week on Monday morning with some sleep debt,” says Zipunnikov, affirming previous research. 

Additionally, midpoints of weekdays for teenagers were on average around 3:50 a.m., more than an hour later compared with average midpoints of 2:45 a.m. for adults. This likely indicates that many middle and high schoolers do not get the minimally recommended eight hours of sleep.

“Our findings provide additional evidence that sleep-wake cycles of teenagers are delayed and support for the idea that social systems should not encourage further sleep deprivation but instead work around physiological needs,” says Urbanek.

One way to accommodate these needs, the researchers say, is to delay school start times for middle and high school students. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep Association have all released policy statements recommending later school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Other authors on this paper include Adam P. Spira, Junrui Di, Andrew Leroux and Ciprian Crainiceanu of The Johns Hopkins University.  

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (R01HL123407, R01AG049872-01, R01AG050507, AG049872, AG050507, AG050745 and AG052445). Dr. Spira agreed to serve as a consultant to Awareables, Inc., in support of an NIH grant.  

 

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Study Suggests Older Surgeons Produce Lower Mortality Rates in Emergency Procedures

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  • UCLA RESEARCH ALERT

  • Credit: Araceli Alarcon/U.S. Air Force

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FINDINGS

Researchers from UCLA and several other institutions found surgeries performed by older surgeons — age 50 and up — have lower patient mortality rates than those performed by younger surgeons, and that patient mortality rates do not differ significantly based on whether the surgeon is male or female.

Broken down by age group and adjusting for various patient characteristics, mortality rates were 6.6 percent for surgeons aged 40 and younger, 6.5 percent for those 40 to 49 years old, 6.4 percent for surgeons aged 50 to 59 years, and 6.3 percent for surgeons age 60 and older.

The study also showed that when comparing men and women surgeons across those four age groups, female surgeons in their 50s had the lowest patient mortality rate.

BACKGROUND

There has been limited research about how a surgeon’s age, gender and other characteristics are correlated with patient outcomes. The researchers set out to understand whether surgeons’ skills improve with experience, and whether a loss of dexterity or less familiarity with new technologies contributed to poorer surgical outcomes for older doctors. There also has been concern that tighter restrictions on training hours during the residencies of younger surgeons might negatively affect their skills later on.

METHOD

The researchers examined the medical records of 892,187 Medicare patients aged 65 to 99 who had one of 20 common types of emergency surgery between 2011 and 2014. The records incorporated procedures performed by 45,826 surgeons. The study focused on surgeries for which patients are less likely to select their surgeons, and surgeons are less likely to select their patients.  

Among the potential limitations to the study are that the findings may not be applicable to long-term mortality and complication rates, and that the analysis was limited to Medicare patients and may not apply to non-Medicare patients, physicians in other specialties and outpatient care.

IMPACT

The findings suggest a need for more oversight and supervision of surgeons in their early post-residency careers, although the researchers write that further research is warranted.

AUTHORS

The study’s lead author is Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa of UCLA, and the senior author is Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Healthcare System Boston. Other authors are Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Bureau of Economic Research; E. John Orav and Dr. Thomas Tsai of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Daniel Blumenthal and Dr. Winta Mehtsun of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

JOURNAL

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

Johns Hopkins Performs First Total Penis and Scrotum Transplant in the World

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Newswise — Many soldiers returning from combat bear visible scars, or even lost limbs, caused by blasts from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. However, some servicemen also return with debilitating hidden injuries -- the loss of all or part of their genitals. Now, the Johns Hopkins reconstructive surgery team that performed the country's first bilateral arm transplant in a wounded warrior has successfully performed the first total penis and scrotum transplant in the world.

"We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man," says W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

A team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons was involved in the 14-hour surgery on March 26. They transplanted from a deceased donor the entire penis, scrotum (without testicles) and partial abdominal wall.

"It's a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept," says the recipient who is a veteran who sustained injuries in Afghanistan and wishes to remain anonymous. "When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal... [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence... like finally I'm okay now," he says.

The recipient is a veteran who sustained injuries in Afghanistan and wishes to remain anonymous. He has recovered from the surgery and is expected to be discharged from the hospital this week.

While it's possible to reconstruct a penis using tissue from other parts of the body, says Lee, a prosthesis implant would be necessary to achieve an erection, and that comes with a much higher rate of infection. Additionally, due to other injuries, servicemen often don't have enough viable tissue from other parts of their bodies to work with.

This type of transplant, where a body part or tissue is transferred from one individual to another, is called vascularized composite allotransplantation. The surgery involves transplanting skin, muscles and tendons, nerves, bone and blood vessels. As with any transplant surgery, tissue rejection is a concern. The patient is put on a regimen of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection. Lee's team has developed an immune modulation protocol aimed at minimizing the number of these drugs needed to prevent rejection.

Bariatric Surgery Successes Lead to Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

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Newswise — Bariatric surgery has long yielded almost immediate health benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes, and new findings on the reasons for remission may be the key to developing drug alternatives to surgery.

“One of the things that bariatric surgery does is cause type 2 diabetes remission,” said Bethany Cummings, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and senior author on the paper in Cell Reports. “This has given rise to a field dedicated to figuring out how exactly it does that.”

There are several types of bariatric surgery, all of which reduce the size of the stomach in some way. Cummings’ research focused on vertical sleeve gastrectomy, in which the stomach is reshaped into a tube. Her paper is the first of its kind to be tissue-specific and inducible, which means her lab’s mouse model contains no genetic variables that could lead to errors in the results.

Type 2 diabetes develops due to two issues: islet dysfunction in the pancreas, and insulin resistance that’s generally associated with obesity. Pancreatic islets produce important hormones for the body, including insulin. If they aren’t functioning correctly, insulin can’t move glucose out of the blood.

“The switch between pre-diabetic to diabetic comes down to the islet,” said Darline Garibay, first author on the paper and a graduate student in Cummings’ lab.

The islets comprise a delicate balance of alpha cells and beta cells. Alpha cells produce the hormone glucagon, which pushes glucose into the blood and promotes type 2 diabetes, and beta cells produce insulin, which pushes glucose out of the blood and protects against type 2 diabetes. When a pancreatic islet functions normally, it secretes both hormones into the blood stream. With type 2 diabetes, the islet functions abnormally and is unable to push enough insulin out, so the blood stream becomes saturated with excess glucose and has nothing to balance it.

Beta cells get help producing insulin from the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is classically thought to be produced only in the gut, not the pancreas. Alpha cells typically make glucagon, but can make GLP-1 instead, though a way to control this important pathway is unknown.

Since GLP-1 numbers rise dramatically in the blood after bariatric surgery, Cummings’ research group focused on GLP-1 receptor signaling in the improvements observed after surgery. Her investigation showed that bariatric surgery has a surprising effect: increasing the expression of GLP-1 in the alpha cell. They also found that the presence of a GLP-1 receptor in the beta cell increased the occurrence of the GLP-1 hormone in the alpha cell – essentially changing its identity from a cell that promotes diabetes to a cell that can fight diabetes. Cummings’ lab thinks that this is a paracrine process, meaning there is an unknown factor secreted from the beta cell that signals locally to convince the alpha cell to stop producing glucagon and switch to making GLP-1 instead.

No dangerous amounts of glucose in the blood stream means no type 2 diabetes.

“Basically, there’s a way to switch the alpha cell from making a bad hormone into making a good hormone,” said Cummings, though she’s not recommending that people rush to get bariatric surgery, which can be risky and expensive, just for these effects.

To further this research into GLP-1, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Cummings’ lab a Medical Discovery Award to figure out what factor or factors may act to switch what alpha cells produce.

“The ultimate goal here is to define how the surgery works so we can develop a drug that mimics the effect of surgery. Developing such a drug will bypass the risk and expense of bariatric surgery to make the benefits of this surgery more widely available,” said Cummings.

 

    Napping Can Help Tired Teens' Performance in School Researchers found that regular mid-day naps can help adolescents overcome lack of sleep

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    Newswise — Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have discovered how two brain regions work together to maintain attention, and how discordance between the regions could lead to attention deficit disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

    People with attention deficits have difficulty focusing and often display compulsive behavior. The new study suggests these symptoms could be due to dysfunction in a gene—ErbB4that helps different brain regions communicate. The gene is a known risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and is required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

    In a study published in the current issue of Neuron, researchers showed mice lacking ErbB4 activity in specific brain regions performed poorly on timed attention tasks. The mice struggled to pay attention and remember visual cues associated with food. Neuroscientists describe the kind of thought-driven attention required for the tasks as “top-down attention.” Top-down attention is goal-oriented, and related to focus. People who lack efficient top-down attention are at a higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is the first to connect ErbB4 to top-down attention.

    “The results reveal a mechanism for top-down attention, which could go wrong in attention disorders,” says corresponding author Lin Mei, PhD, professor and chair of the department of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “And since ErbB4 is a risk factor for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, the results provide insights into mechanisms of these disorders.”

    When the researchers attached probes to the mice to measure brain activity, they found mice without ErbB4 had brain regions that were acting independently, rather than together in synchrony. In particular, the researchers studied the prefrontal cortex—normally associated with decision-making—and the hippocampus—a region that supports memory. These two regions coordinate for a variety of brain tasks, including memory and attention.

    “We found top-down attention, previously thought to be controlled by the prefrontal cortex, also involves the hippocampus in a manner where the two regions are highly synchronized when attention is high,” says Mei. “Our findings give importance to synchrony between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in top-down attention and open up the possibility that attention deficit disorders, like ADHD, might involve impairments in the synchrony between these two regions.”

    According to the new study, ErbB4 coordinates a cascade of brain signals that “bridge” the two regions. ErbB4 itself encodes a receptor found on the surface of brain cells. The study found that when a protein (neuregulin-1) attaches to the ErbB4 receptor, it triggers a chain reaction that ultimately determines neurotransmitter levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Without ErbB4, neurotransmitter levels go awry. The researchers discovered mice lacking ErbB4 have low levels of a particular neurotransmitter—GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid—in their brain. Low GABA levels can lead to impaired top-down attention in the prefrontal cortex, and impairs how the prefrontal cortex can efficiently coordinate with the hippocampus. The researchers concluded that ErbB4 helps link the two brain regions to maintain attention.

    The study used a novel mouse model to study brain functions. By using genetic and chemical techniques, Mei’s team can specifically inhibit ErbB4 in a specific brain region. “We generated a mutant mouse that enables us to inhibit ErbB4 activity whenever and wherever we want, thus allowing temporal and spatial control of ErbB4 activity,” says Mei. “This positions us to understand how different brain regions and their neurotransmitter activity regulate various brain functions.” The researchers are planning to use the novel mouse model to study how ErbB4 may coordinate brain activities, in an effort to learn more about mechanisms behind attention deficit disorders.

    ###

    This study was supported by a grant from the NIH (MH083317 to Lin Mei). Zhibing Tan is supported in part by a 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (26842).

    Tan, Z., Robinson, H., et al. “Dynamic ErbB4 activity in hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony and top-down attention in rodents.” Neuron. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.03.018

    For more information about Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, please visit: case.edu/medicine.

     

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    Attention Deficit Disorders Could Stem from Impaired Brain Coordination

    Drotumdi O

     Attention Deficit Disorders Could Stem from Impaired Brain Coordination  Researchers uncover link absent between brain regions in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia     Article ID: 692324  Released: 5-Apr-2018 1:05 PM EDT  Source Newsroom:  Case Western Reserve University    Add to Favorites         more news from this source                      Share                     Credit: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine           Credit: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  Lin Mei, PhD           Credit: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine           Credit: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  Lin Mei, PhD   Prev  Next      MEDIA CONTACT   Available for logged-in reporters only   CITATIONS    Neuron  ; NIH; 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation  CHANNELS   All Journal News ,  Behavioral Science ,  Mental Health ,  Neuro ,  Psychology and Psychiatry   KEYWORDS   Neuron ,  Neuroscience ,  Brain ,  attention deficient hyperactivity disorder ,  Schizophrenia ,   Bipolar Disorder ,  Depression ,  Brain Coordination ,  brain regions ,  Hippocampus ,   GABA ,  Prefrontal Cortex ,  ERBB4 ,  Synchrony ,  top-down attention ,   Attention   + Show More        Newswise — Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have discovered how two brain regions work together to maintain attention, and how discordance between the regions could lead to attention deficit disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.  People with attention deficits have difficulty focusing and often display compulsive behavior. The new study suggests these symptoms could be due to dysfunction in a gene— ErbB4  — that helps different brain regions communicate. The gene is a known risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and is required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.  In a study published in the current issue of   Neuron  , researchers showed mice lacking  ErbB4  activity in specific brain regions performed poorly on timed attention tasks. The mice struggled to pay attention and remember visual cues associated with food. Neuroscientists describe the kind of thought-driven attention required for the tasks as “top-down attention.” Top-down attention is goal-oriented, and related to focus. People who lack efficient top-down attention are at a higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is the first to connect  ErbB4  to top-down attention.  “The results reveal a mechanism for top-down attention, which could go wrong in attention disorders,” says corresponding author Lin Mei, PhD, professor and chair of the department of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “And since  ErbB4  is a risk factor for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, the results provide insights into mechanisms of these disorders.”  When the researchers attached probes to the mice to measure brain activity, they found mice without  ErbB4  had brain regions that were acting independently, rather than together in synchrony. In particular, the researchers studied the prefrontal cortex—normally associated with decision-making—and the hippocampus—a region that supports memory. These two regions coordinate for a variety of brain tasks, including memory and attention.  “We found top-down attention, previously thought to be controlled by the prefrontal cortex, also involves the hippocampus in a manner where the two regions are highly synchronized when attention is high,” says Mei. “Our findings give importance to synchrony between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in top-down attention and open up the possibility that attention deficit disorders, like ADHD, might involve impairments in the synchrony between these two regions.”  According to the new study,  ErbB4  coordinates a cascade of brain signals that “bridge” the two regions.  ErbB4  itself encodes a receptor found on the surface of brain cells. The study found that when a protein (neuregulin-1) attaches to the  ErbB4  receptor, it triggers a chain reaction that ultimately determines neurotransmitter levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Without  ErbB4 , neurotransmitter levels go awry. The researchers discovered mice lacking  ErbB4  have low levels of a particular neurotransmitter—GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid—in their brain. Low GABA levels can lead to impaired top-down attention in the prefrontal cortex, and impairs how the prefrontal cortex can efficiently coordinate with the hippocampus. The researchers concluded that  ErbB4  helps link the two brain regions to maintain attention.  The study used a novel mouse model to study brain functions. By using genetic and chemical techniques, Mei’s team can specifically inhibit ErbB4 in a specific brain region. “We generated a mutant mouse that enables us to inhibit  ErbB4  activity whenever and wherever we want, thus allowing temporal and spatial control of  ErbB4  activity,” says Mei. “This positions us to understand how different brain regions and their neurotransmitter activity regulate various brain functions.” The researchers are planning to use the novel mouse model to study how  ErbB4  may coordinate brain activities, in an effort to learn more about mechanisms behind attention deficit disorders.  ###  This study was supported by a grant from the NIH (MH083317 to Lin Mei). Zhibing Tan is supported in part by a 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (26842).  Tan, Z., Robinson, H.,  et  al. “Dynamic ErbB4 activity in hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony and top-down attention in rodents.”   Neuron  . doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.03.018  For more information about Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, please visit:  case.edu/medicine .       SEE ORIGINAL STUDY       Permalink to this article               COMMENTS  |  COMMENTING POLICY   We recommend   Too Much Activity in Certain Areas of the Brain Is Bad for Memory and Attention   Newswise   Long-distance Brain Waves Focus Attention   Newswise   Study Reveals How ADHD Drugs Work in Brain   Newswise   Study Uncovers How Ritalin Works in Brain to Boost Cognition, Focus Attention   Newswise   Study Offers New Clue on How Brain Processes Visual Information   Newswise      GABAA Receptor Subtypes: Therapeutic Potential in Down Syndrome, Affective Disorders, Schizophrenia, and Autism   Fred Volkmar et. al., Annual Reviews   The Emerging Picture of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Genetics and Pathology   Jason A. Chen et. al.ñagarikano, T. Grant Belgard, Vivek Swarup, and Daniel H. Geschwind, Annual Reviews   Share your Insights and Learn How Readers Discover Content   TrendMD, Renew Publishing Consultants   Higher fasting plasma glucose is associated with striatal and hippocampal shape differences: the 2sweet project   Tianqi Zhang et al., BMJ Open Diab Res Care   Refractory to Treatment in Adult Atopic Dermatitis    Accredited CME content, myCME   Powered by TrendMD        View All Latest News

    Attention Deficit Disorders Could Stem from Impaired Brain Coordination

    Researchers uncover link absent between brain regions in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia

    Article ID: 692324

    Released: 5-Apr-2018 1:05 PM EDT

    Source Newsroom: Case Western Reserve University

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    Credit: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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    CITATIONS

    Neuron; NIH; 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

    CHANNELS

    All Journal News, Behavioral Science, Mental Health, Neuro, Psychology and Psychiatry

    KEYWORDS

    Neuron, Neuroscience, Brain, attention deficient hyperactivity disorder, Schizophrenia,

    Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Brain Coordination, brain regions, Hippocampus,

    GABA, Prefrontal Cortex, ERBB4, Synchrony, top-down attention,

    Attention

    + Show More

     

    Newswise — Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have discovered how two brain regions work together to maintain attention, and how discordance between the regions could lead to attention deficit disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

    People with attention deficits have difficulty focusing and often display compulsive behavior. The new study suggests these symptoms could be due to dysfunction in a gene—ErbB4that helps different brain regions communicate. The gene is a known risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and is required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

    In a study published in the current issue of Neuron, researchers showed mice lacking ErbB4 activity in specific brain regions performed poorly on timed attention tasks. The mice struggled to pay attention and remember visual cues associated with food. Neuroscientists describe the kind of thought-driven attention required for the tasks as “top-down attention.” Top-down attention is goal-oriented, and related to focus. People who lack efficient top-down attention are at a higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is the first to connect ErbB4 to top-down attention.

    “The results reveal a mechanism for top-down attention, which could go wrong in attention disorders,” says corresponding author Lin Mei, PhD, professor and chair of the department of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “And since ErbB4 is a risk factor for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, the results provide insights into mechanisms of these disorders.”

    When the researchers attached probes to the mice to measure brain activity, they found mice without ErbB4 had brain regions that were acting independently, rather than together in synchrony. In particular, the researchers studied the prefrontal cortex—normally associated with decision-making—and the hippocampus—a region that supports memory. These two regions coordinate for a variety of brain tasks, including memory and attention.

    “We found top-down attention, previously thought to be controlled by the prefrontal cortex, also involves the hippocampus in a manner where the two regions are highly synchronized when attention is high,” says Mei. “Our findings give importance to synchrony between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in top-down attention and open up the possibility that attention deficit disorders, like ADHD, might involve impairments in the synchrony between these two regions.”

    According to the new study, ErbB4 coordinates a cascade of brain signals that “bridge” the two regions. ErbB4 itself encodes a receptor found on the surface of brain cells. The study found that when a protein (neuregulin-1) attaches to the ErbB4 receptor, it triggers a chain reaction that ultimately determines neurotransmitter levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Without ErbB4, neurotransmitter levels go awry. The researchers discovered mice lacking ErbB4 have low levels of a particular neurotransmitter—GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid—in their brain. Low GABA levels can lead to impaired top-down attention in the prefrontal cortex, and impairs how the prefrontal cortex can efficiently coordinate with the hippocampus. The researchers concluded that ErbB4 helps link the two brain regions to maintain attention.

    The study used a novel mouse model to study brain functions. By using genetic and chemical techniques, Mei’s team can specifically inhibit ErbB4 in a specific brain region. “We generated a mutant mouse that enables us to inhibit ErbB4 activity whenever and wherever we want, thus allowing temporal and spatial control of ErbB4 activity,” says Mei. “This positions us to understand how different brain regions and their neurotransmitter activity regulate various brain functions.” The researchers are planning to use the novel mouse model to study how ErbB4 may coordinate brain activities, in an effort to learn more about mechanisms behind attention deficit disorders.

    ###

    This study was supported by a grant from the NIH (MH083317 to Lin Mei). Zhibing Tan is supported in part by a 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (26842).

    Tan, Z., Robinson, H., et al. “Dynamic ErbB4 activity in hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony and top-down attention in rodents.” Neuron. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.03.018

    For more information about Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, please visit: case.edu/medicine.

     

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