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July 14, 2008, 5:15 PM CT

Passive Learning Too Imprints On The Brain

Passive Learning Too Imprints On The Brain
A view of the left hemisphere of the brain (with the left part of the image being the forward part of the brain) illustrating the Action Observance Network regions. (image courtesy Emily Cross)
It's conventional wisdom that practice makes perfect. But if practicing only consists of watching, rather than doing, does that advance proficiency? Yes, as per a research studyby Dartmouth researchers.

In a study titled "Sensitivity of the Action Observation Network to Physical and Observational Learning" reported in the journal Cerebral Cortex in May 2008, Dartmouth scientists determined that people can acquire motor skills through the "seeing" as well as the "doing" form of learning.

"It's been established in prior research that there are correlations in behavioral performance between active and passive learning, but in this study we were surprised by the remarkable similarity in brain activation when our research participants observed dance sequences that were actively or passively experienced," says Emily Cross, the principal investigator and PhD student at Dartmouth. Cross, who earned her degree in June, is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Gera number of.

Cross and her collaborators used a video game where players have to move in a particular sequence to match the position of arrows on the screen, similar to the popular Dance Dance Revolution game. The scientists measured the skill level of participants for sequences that were actively rehearsed daily, and a different set of sequences that were passively observed for an equivalent amount of time. Brain activity when watching both kinds of sequences (as well as a third set of sequences that were entirely unfamiliar) was captured using fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging. The study focused on the Action Observance Network (AON) in the brain, a group of neural regions found mostly in the inferior parietal and premotor cortices of the brain (near the top of the head) responsible for motor skills and some memory functions.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 14, 2008, 4:47 PM CT

Who responds best to an antidepressant

Who responds best to an antidepressant
A new Mayo Clinic study shows that variations in the serotonin transporter gene could explain why some people with depression respond better than others to therapy with citalopram (Celexa), an antidepressant medication.

The study, in the current issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, examined the serotonin transporter gene, or SLC6A4, in 1,914 study participants. The study showed that two variations in this gene have a direct bearing on how individuals might respond to citalopram. SLC6A4 produces a protein that plays an important role in achieving an antidepressant response.

In this study, scientists reviewed the influence of variations in SLC6A4 in response to citalopram therapy in white, black and Hispanic patients. Scientists observed that white patients with two distinct gene variations were more likely to experience remission of symptoms linked to major depression. No associations between the two variations and remission were found in black or Hispanic patients.

"The findings of this study represent another step in advancing individualized medicine for psychiatric patients," says David Mrazek, M.D., chair of the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and the study's senior author. Dr. Mrazek is director of the Genomic Expression and Neuropsychiatric Evaluation (GENE) Unit at Mayo Clinic.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 14, 2008, 4:21 PM CT

Asians who immigrated to US before age 25

Asians who immigrated to US before age 25
Asian-American immigrants who came to the United States before they were 25 years old have poorer mental health than their compatriots who came to this country when they were 25 or older, as per data from the first national mental health survey of Asian-Americans.

The study is noteworthy because it shows that using traditional measures of socio-economic status number of years of school and household income to predict health outcomes is not accurate for individuals who immigrate when they are children or young adults, as per Janxin Leu, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

Immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they were 25 attained higher levels of education and income than did older immigrants. However, 13 percent of the younger immigrants reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder in the prior 12 months in comparison to 9 percent of the over-25 group.

Leu and the other scientists observed that what is called subjective social status was more accurate in predicting mental health outcomes than income or education. To calculate this, they told the people surveyed to imagine a ladder with 10 rungs containing individuals who had achieved the most on the top rung and those who were least successful on the bottom. Then they were asked to place themselves on the ladder in comparison with other people.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 14, 2008, 4:14 PM CT

Rx for time-crunched physicians

Rx for time-crunched physicians
With their waiting rooms crowded and exam rooms full, a number of physicians say they are too busy to be good communicators. Those who study doctor time-management think otherwise. Certain communication skills can foster efficiency and effectiveness during an office visit without sacrificing rapport with patients, as per scientists at the University of Washington (UW) and the University of Rochester.

Their guide to a smoother flow of communication between doctors and patients appears in the July 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine Their model is based on the authors' observation: "Effective communication in primary care must include skills that enhance the quality of care while helping patients and physicians use time wisely Making the best use of available time is important for visits of any duration."

The scientists are Larry Mauksch, a UW behavioral scientist in family medicine who studies and teaches doctor/patient communications; David C. Dugdale, an internal medicine doctor and director of the UW Hall Health Primary Care Center; Sherry Dodson, UW clinical medical librarian; and Ronald Epstein, professor of family medicine, psychiatry, and oncology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and its Center to Improve Communication and Health Care.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 9:48 PM CT

GNicotine addiction may be in your genes

GNicotine addiction may be  in your genes
Common genetic variations affecting nicotine receptors in the nervous system can significantly increase the chance that European Americans who begin smoking by age 17 will struggle with life-long nicotine addiction. Published July 11 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, this research led by researchers at the University of Utah together with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin highlights the importance of preventing early exposure to tobacco through public health policies.

These common genetic variations, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are changes in a single unit of DNA. A haplotype is a set of SNPs that are statistically linked. The scientists observed that one haplotype for the nicotine receptor put European American smokers at a greater risk of heavy nicotine dependence as adults, but only if they began daily smoking before the age of 17. A second haplotype actually reduced the risk of adult heavy nicotine dependence for people who began smoking in their youth.

The scientists studied 2,827 long-term European American smokers, recruited in Utah and Wisconsin, and to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Lung Health Study. They assessed the level of nicotine dependence for all smokers, recording the age they began smoking daily, the number of years they smoked, and the average number of cigarettes smoked per day. DNA samples were taken from all smokers, and the scientists recorded the occurrence of common SNPs, grouped into four haplotypes, which had been identified earlier in a subset of participants.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 9:45 PM CT

Teaching old drugs new tricks

Teaching old drugs new tricks
Scientists from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) discovered a new way to make use of drugs' unwanted side effects. They developed a computational method that compares how similar the side effects of different drugs are and predicts how likely the drugs act on the same target molecule. The study, published in Science this week, hints at new uses of marketed drugs.

Similar drugs often share target proteins, modes of action and unpleasant side effects. In reverse this means that drugs that evoke similar side effects likely act on the same molecular targets. A team of EMBL scientists now developed a computational tool that compares side effects to test if they can predict common targets of drugs.

"Such a correlation not only reveals the molecular basis of a number of side effects, but also bears a powerful therapeutic potential. It hints at new uses of marketed drugs in the therapy of diseases they were not specifically developed for," says Peer Bork, Joint Coordinator of EMBL's Structural and Computational Biology Unit.

The approach would prove especially useful for chemically dissimilar drugs used in different therapeutic areas that nevertheless have an overlapping, so far unknown protein target profile. Similar strategies have proven successful in the past. For example, the drug marketed as Viagra was initially developed to treat angina, but its side effects of prolonged penile erection led to a change in its therapeutic area.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 9:43 PM CT

Prostate cancer vaccines more effective with hormone therapy

Prostate cancer vaccines more effective with hormone therapy
Among patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer, the addition of hormone treatment following vaccine therapy improved overall survival compared with either therapy alone or when the vaccine followed hormone therapy, as per recent data reported in the July 15 Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Philip M. Arlen, M.D., director of the Clinical Research Group for the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, Center for Cancer Research, at the National Cancer Institute, said the findings have important implications for guiding therapy decisions for patients with prostate cancer.

"Vaccines, if and when they are approved, can be safely and effectively combined with other therapies, including hormones," said Arlen. "There appears to be an advantage in overall survival".

Arlen and his colleagues enrolled 42 patients who had castration-resistant prostate cancer. These patients were randomly assigned to receive either a poxvirus-based prostate-specific antigen vaccine or hormone treatment with nilutamide. At progression, patients received the other treatment and continued to receive their original treatment.

For all the patients enrolled in the study, the three-year survival probability was 71 percent and the median overall survival was 4.4 years. Patients randomized to the vaccine had a three-year survival probability of 81 percent and an overall survival of 5.1 years, while patients taking nilutamide had a three-year survival probability of 62 percent and an overall survival of 3.4 years.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 8:43 PM CT

New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine

New discovery could lead to an improved influenza vaccine
Improving health through medical research.
Findings just reported in the scientific journal Immunity by scientists at the Trudeau Institute shed new light on how a previously-unknown messaging mechanism within the human immune system prompts specific influenza-fighting cells to the lung airways during an infection.

Infections from the influenza virus are responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and as a number of as 40,000 deaths in the United States each year. Eventhough scientists have known for some time that white blood cells congregating in the lung and directly attacking the virus play an important role in defending against influenza, it has never been clear how exactly these white blood cells know when they are mandatory in the lung.

Now new research in the Trudeau Institute laboratory of Dr. David Woodland offers important insights into the navigational aids used by these cells as they maneuver through the human body. Trudeau researchers have shown that lungs which have been infected with the influenza virus produce a series of chemicals, or chemokines, which act as beacons for specific types of white blood cells. While circulating in the bloodstream, these white blood cells recognize the chemical messages signaling the presence of the virus and the need for them to move into lung tissues.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 8:34 PM CT

Link shown between thunderstorms and asthma attacks

Link shown between thunderstorms and asthma attacks
In the first in-depth study of its kind ever done in the Southeastern United States, scientists at the University of Georgia and Emory University have discovered a link between thunderstorms and asthma attacks in the metro Atlanta area that could have a "significant public health impact".

While a relationship between thunderstorms and increased hospital visits for asthma attacks has been known and studied worldwide for years, this is the first time a team of climatologists and epidemiologists has ever conducted a detailed study of the phenomenon in the American South.

The team, studying a database consisting of more than 10 million emergency room visits in some 41 hospitals in a 20-county area in and around Atlanta for the period between 1993 and 2004, found a three percent higher occurence rate of visits for asthma attacks on days following thunderstorms.

"While a three percent increase in risk may seem modest, asthma is quite prevalent in Atlanta, and a modest relative increase could have a significant public health impact for a region with more than five million people," said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist in the department of geography at UGA and lead author on the research. Grundstein went on to say that "three percent is likely conservative because of limitations in this study".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 9, 2008, 9:16 PM CT

How food affects the brain

How food affects the brain
In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.

"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Fernando Gmez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain. "Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging." .

Gmez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food's affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the recent issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience and are available online at www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n7/abs/nrn2421.html.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit provide a number of benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gmez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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