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December 14, 2005
Intraocular Lens Implant Reduces Need For Reading Glasses
"To me the greatest thing this lens offers is freedom," says Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist Dr. Akbar Hasan. "You can focus at different depths. You can go into a grocery store, look down the lane and then pick up a can of soup and read the ingredients. You don't have to reach for your glasses." Dr. Hasan is quick to point out that the new lens doesn't offer better quality vision than standard implants, but rather, less dependence on reading glasses.
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can occur in one or both eyes and generally occurs as part of the normal aging process. In fact, about 70 percent of all Americans over 75 have a significant degree of visual impairment due to cataracts. Cataract surgery, in which the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one, is one of the most usually performed operations, and IOL implants have been used for over 30 years. "It's a 15-minute operation," Hasan says. "Recovery is quick. People are back on their feet the same day. Commonly their vision stabilizes within a few days."
Sandra Jones, an accountant at a realty office, was both nearsighted and farsighted. Today she wears neither glasses nor contact lens, though she had relied on them since she was a child. Weeks ago, Hasan placed a ReSTOR IOL in both her eyes. "It far exceeded my expectations," Jones says. "I never thought it would be this good. I can read the phone book without glasses, and that's about as small as it gets."........
December 14, 2005
Amn107 In Leukemia Resistant To Gleevec
At the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the investigators reported marked improvement in outcome in all three phases of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) as well as benefit in treating a form of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) that shares the same genetic abnormality as CML, the Philadelphia chromosome.
"This drug is very promising and appears at this point to offer an effective option for patients who do not achieve an optimal response to Gleevec treatment," says Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Leukemia.
If additional studies continue to show such results, Kantarjian says, he believes AMN107, which is taken in pill form, "will either replace Gleevec as the standard of care in the future or will be used in combination with it.".
Both CML and Philadelphia-positive ALL is caused by the swapping of genetic material in bone marrow stem cells between two chromosomes, which produces an abnormality called the Philadelphia chromosome. This new gene then produces a novel tyrosine kinase (Bcr-Abl) that signals the abnormal cell growth that leads to development of leukemia.
While both Gleevec and AMN107 shut down the activity of Bcr-Abl, laboratory experiments with AMN107 show it is up to 50 times more potent because it binds more efficiently to the enzyme than does Gleevec.
In the phase I clinical trial being reported, 119 patients who were resistant to Gleevec were given AMN107, and in some cases the dose was increased up to twelve fold. The scientists found that the range of response varied, depending on the form of the cancer and the presence of genetic mutations. For example, hematologic response from the drug (defined as control of white blood cell counts) ranged from 44 percent to 100 percent in different subgroups of CML patients, and the more enduring cytogenetic response (elimination of cells with the cancer-causing defect) ranged from 22 percent to 100 percent. There was less overall response in ALL patients (ranging from 10 percent to 33 percent, depending on extent of disease).........
December 14, 2005
Immune Responses To Cancer
Results of a large study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition provide further evidence for the role of the immune system in controlling cancer.
The international research team, led by investigators from Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and part of the global Cancer Vaccine Collaborative, examined the precise location of subpopulations of immune cells [tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs)] in 117 RPCI patients with epithelial ovary cancer (EOC) to determine the interrelationship between subpopulations of TILs and overall survival.
Results of the detailed immunohistochemical analysis of TILs in EOC indicated that eventhough most subtypes correlated with each other, intraepithelial CD8+ was the only subtype associated with a favorable prognosis. Further, high CD8+/CD4+ and CD8+/regulatory T cell (Tregs) ratios were associated with a favorable prognosis in EOC; the latter corresponding to an almost 70 percent reduction in the risk of death.
"This work represents a major step forward in documenting evidence for immune responses to cancer," according to Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Immunology at RPCI and corresponding author of this study. "Further, it implies that a critical balance must be achieved in the ratio of CD8+ T cells to Tregs in immune therapies, and that manipulation of Tregs could be a powerful method to enhance the efficacy of such therapies."........
December 14, 2005
Advice On Fighting Holiday Pounds
Lona Sandon, assistant professor of nutrition at UT Southwestern, says there are some simple tricks everyone can use to keep from getting stuffed this season.
"On average, we gain one to two pounds over the holidays, but unfortunately, we often don't lose that weight," she said. "So over the course of 10 years, you can find yourself 20 pounds heavier and losing the weight can be quite difficult.".
If you're hosting holiday parties, she suggests setting a table featuring lots of high-fiber, high-water foods such as a big green salad and fresh vegetable tray. This will encourage you and your guests to start the meal with a low-calorie appetizer.
You can also provide lower-calorie dressings, such as light vinaigrette or dips that are made with light sour cream or low-fat cream cheese. Crispy appetizers like pickles, fresh vegetables and fruit can also help guests consume fewer calories at the buffet table.
"I also recommend using smaller sized cocktail plates or even cocktail napkins instead of large plates," Ms. Sandon said. "That discourages guests from piling food onto their plates. When you're serving casserole dishes, serve from a tablespoon rather than a giant serving spoon. People are more likely to serve themselves less food.".
Using pre-sized portions also keeps people from sampling large portions of the main entree or dessert. Cutting a pie into slices previous to setting it out on the buffet table keeps guests from cutting larger portions.........
December 14, 2005
Cataract Surgery Rates And Costs
A variety of studies have evaluated the influence of clinician incentive and reimbursement systems on the provision of services. A number of of those studies have evaluated practice patterns in the primary care setting, and the majority of them confirmed expectations that financial incentives to provide less care result in decreased hospitalization, resource use, and costs, eventhough not universally, according to background information in the article. Under the fee-for-service (FFS) system, physicians are reimbursed for each procedure, and under the contact capitation (CC) system, physicians are provided a lump sum for each patient they manage.
William Shrank, M.D., MSHS, who was with the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Care System at the time of the research, and his colleagues compared the effects of FFS and CC on cataract extraction rates and costs. (Dr. Shrank is now with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.) The scientists analyzed claims and other data for an average of 91,473 commercial beneficiaries and 14,084 Medicare beneficiaries receiving eye care from a network of ophthalmologists and optometrists in St. Louis, Mo., between 1997 and 1998. The rate of cataract extractions per 1,000 beneficiaries, the costs of cataract procedures, the rates of non-cataract procedures, and the level of professional reimbursement for providers were compared during the final six months of FFS clinician reimbursement and the first six months of CC.........
December 14, 2005
The Disease That Ravaged Napoleon's Army
Napoleon marched into Russia in the summer of 1812 with a half-million soldiers. Only a few thousand staggered out again, victims of war, weather, and disease. Twenty-five thousand arrived in Vilnius that winter, but only 3,000 lived to continue the retreat. The dead were buried in mass graves.
Construction work in 2001 unearthed one such grave, containing between 2,000 and 3,000 corpses. Didier Raoult, MD, PhD, from the Universite de la Mediterranee in Marseille, France, and his colleagues identified body segments of five lice in a forensic excavation of two kilograms of earth containing fragments of bone and remnants of clothing. Three of the lice carried DNA from Bartonella quintana, which causes the disease usually known as trench fever, which afflicted a number of soldiers in World War I.
The team analyzed dental pulp from 72 teeth, taken from the remains of 35 soldiers. Dental pulp from seven soldiers contained DNA from B. quintana, and pulp from three soldiers contained DNA from Rickettsia prowazakii, which causes epidemic typhus. Testing for other organisms gave negative results, and other appropriate controls were negative.
In all, 29 percent of the soldiers tested had evidence of either R. prowazkii or B. quintana infection, suggesting that louse-born diseases such as typhus and trench fever may have been a major factor contributing to Napoleon's retreat from Russia. The authors conclude that searching for DNA of infectious agents in dental pulp may become an important tool for investigating the history of communicable diseases.
December 13, 2005
Intestinal Stem Cells of Fruit Fly
From an evolutionary perspective, the discovery of immature cells that differentiate into multiple types of gut cells suggests that the digestive tract of the fruit fly is likely to be a more similar, albeit simpler, version of that found in humans.
As a result of the new findings, researchers now envision using the fruit fly - a genetically malleable model organism - to explore normal and pathogenic regeneration of the digestive tract in ways that were not available before.
The two HHMI research teams reported their independent findings on December 7, 2005, in two online research articles published in the journal Nature. The two groups were led by Craig Micchelli and HHMI investigator Norbert Perrimon, who are both at Harvard Medical School, and Benjamin Ohlstein and HHMI investigator Allan C. Spradling, who are both at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Eventhough Drosophila stem cells have proven invaluable in studying regenerating tissues such as the reproductive system, they had not been found in the digestive tract. In fact, a number of researchers believed that the fly intestinal tract was a relatively stable tissue, in contrast to those of humans and mice, which undergo constant turnover to replace cells damaged or lost to abrasion from ingested foods or exposure to toxins and pathogens.
To find out if the digestive tract of the fly harbored stem cells, both research groups began by using cell-tagging tracers. In this way, they determined that the Drosophila gut appeared to contain different types of cells - those that nestled against muscle tissue of the gut wall and those that extended into the interior space. Both groups used genetic techniques to label cell lineages in the Drosophila gut. Those approaches revealed that certain cells divided constantly, whereas others had differentiated into mature gut cells and ceased dividing.........
December 13, 2005
Popularity Doesn't Necessarily Make Prozac Best Antidepressant
Scientists led by Andrea Cipriani, M.D., compared Prozac (fluoxetine) to other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and to other antidepressants and found that Zoloft (sertraline) and Effexor (venlafaxine) were somewhat better for treating depression.
The review also compared the tolerability of fluoxetine and several other often-prescribed antidepressants. Patients found fluoxetine more tolerable than both Elavil or Endep (amitryptilline) and Tofranil (imipramine).
Cipriani, a psychiatry expert at the University of Verona in Italy, said in an e-mail, "Fluoxetine, the most widely studied SSRI, has progressively replaced amitriptyline and imipramine as the standard of comparison for newer medications. We chose fluoxetine because of its long-time position as the market leader and because it has been often used as a reference compound for newer [antidepressants].".
Psychiatry expert Xavier Amador, a member of the board of directors for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said, "Prozac was available years before other SSRIs. Since, as a group, the SSRIs were far safer than [earlier antidepressants] the first one, Prozac, became hugely popular. It has tremendous name recognition for this reason.".
The review appeared in the latest issue of the Cochrane Library. The Cochrane Library is a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.........
December 13, 2005
Link Between Caffeine Dependence And Family History Of Alcoholism
Withdrawal symptoms, functional impairment and craving were cited by the women as reasons they could not cut out or cut back on caffeine use.
None of the women had a current alcohol-use diagnosis, and none had been treated for alcohol problems.
"Results of this study suggest that genetic vulnerability reflected in a family history of alcoholism may also be at the root of the inability to stop caffeine use," said co-lead author Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The study appears in the recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Griffiths, whose past studies of caffeine use helped establish the drug's addictive nature, collected data on caffeine and alcohol use from 44 pregnant women seeking prenatal care from a private obstetrics and gynecology practice in a suburban community. Results showed that half of the women who had both a lifetime history of caffeine dependence and a family history of alcoholism ignored their doctor's recommendation to abstain from caffeine use and consumed caffeine in amounts greater than those considered safe during pregnancy.
Women in the study without these dual risk factors were able to abstain from caffeine during pregnancy, Griffiths said.
"This study helps to validate the diagnosis of caffeine dependence as a clinically significant phenomenon," Griffiths said. "It's one thing to speculate how powerful the dependence is, but here we have an example of people who are not following clinician recommendations and are unable to quit caffeine in spite of wanting to do so.".........
December 13, 2005
Obesity, High Blood Pressure Impacting Many In U.S
The report features an in-depth look at the 55-64 age group, which includes the oldest of the baby boomers. In 2011, the oldest of the boomers will be eligible for Medicare, and by 2014, the ranks of Americans ages 55-64 will swell to 40 million, up from 29 million in 2004.
"Controlling hypertension and obesity is crucial for health, and especially for baby boomers as they grow older," said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. "It's time to act against both conditions so more Americans can live longer, healthier lives.".
Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC Director, urged 55-to-64-year-olds to take careful stock now of their health, including such vital measures as weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure, risk of heart attack and any signs of diabetes. "The late 50s and early 60s are a crucial time of life to focus on disease prevention. It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a longer, healthier life," she said.
While a number of adults in their late 50s and early 60s enjoy good health, others are dealing with chronic and debilitating diseases and lack of health insurance. The report finds that minorities - primarily blacks and Hispanics - are more likely to fall into those categories.
The report also notes that 11 percent of Americans ages 55-64 lack health insurance-compared to the national average of Americans under age 65 without health insurance (16.5 percent). Eighty-three percent of married adults ages 55-64 had private health insurance, compared to 60 percent of widowed, separated, divorced or single adults in that age group.........
December 13, 2005
Criminal Justice Handling of Statutory Rape Cases
"The enforcement of statutory rape laws - too lenient? too severe? - has been a subject of vigorous debate in recent years," said Ross Cheit, associate professor of public policy at Brown and lead author of the study. "The debate has been passionate but driven largely by anecdote and ideology, not data. We wanted to assemble the facts of the matter.".
Statutory rape laws forbid sexual relations between adults and teen-agers who are older than the age at which they are considered children by child molestation statutes (commonly 13) but younger than the age of consent (commonly 16). Laws in all 50 states recognize that young teen-agers are not legally able to consent to sexual relations, eventhough the age of consent varies from 14 to 18. The age of consent is 16 in Rhode Island.
Cheit and two former students - coauthor Laura Braslow, now a graduate student in public administration at New York University, and Veena Srinivasa, who recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Prague - drew data for their study from three sources. First, they examined all 403 Rhode Island Superior Court cases in which statutory rape was charged from 1985 through 2002. Second, they prepared a contextual sample of 158 of those cases, from 1997 through 2002, for which they examined court files and police reports. Third, they examined electronic records in substantiated cases of sexual abuse involving hospital visits by 14- and 15-year-olds.
There are two opposing arguments, Cheit said. One holds that statutory rape laws are too strictly enforced, that they "criminalize young love," and that they are not in accord with changes in social and sexual mores. The other holds that statutory rape laws should be more strictly enforced because sexual contact with older adults can be mentally and physically damaging to young adolescents. In 1997, Congress also urged stricter enforcement as a way to reduce the frequency of teen-age pregnancy.........
December 13, 2005
More Women Physicians Maychoose Pediatric Subspecialties
Unlike in the past, women pediatricians are increasingly likely to enter subspecialties, scientists discovered, saying that the news is reassuring.
"This shows that women are breaking into the glass ceiling in more areas," said Dr. Michelle Mayer, research associate at UNC's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. "Pediatrics appears to be a field with great opportunities for women.".
Mayer also is a faculty member in health policy and administration at the UNC School of Public Health.
"For nine of the 16 pediatric medical subspecialties we studied, the percentages of board-certified women were significantly greater among younger pediatricians than among older ones," she said. "Subspecialties that remain predominately male among the younger group include cardiology, critical care medicine, gastroenterology, pulmonary and sports medicine.".
A report on the study appeared recently in the journal Pediatrics. Along with Mayer, Dr. John S. Preisser, research associate professor of biostatistics in public health, carried out the study. Their work involved analyzing extensive board certification data from the American Board of Pediatrics and dividing the doctors listed into older and younger groups as part of that analysis.
According to information supplied by the board, the number of women choosing to become pediatricians is rising. In 2003, data showed that 63 percent of pediatricians seeking certification were women, Mayer said. Because women doctors in past decades were more likely to practice general pediatrics than to work in subspecialties, concerns developed about the future supply of doctors in some disciplines.........
December 13, 2005
Pre-K And Early Head Start Programs Enhance Children's Development
Findings from both studies confirm the positive effects of these programs for children from birth to age five, including higher performance in children's cognitive and language functioning. The Early Head Start program benefited children's social and emotional development and health as well as reduced aggressive behavior, and improved parent-child relations, and the pre-K program increased parents' involvement in school and home activities.
In the study authored by public policy professor William T. Gormley, Jr., Ph.D., and colleagues of Georgetown University, 1,567 pre-K 4-year-old children and 1,461 children who just completed one of the pre-K programs in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were compared on letter-word identification, spelling and applied problems. Statistical controls for demographic characteristics equalized the two groups. Those children who participated in the state-funded universal pre-K program did better on cognitive tests that measured pre-reading and reading skills, prewriting and spelling skills and math reasoning and problem-solving skills than those children who did not participate in the pre-K program.
The pre-K program improved performances for children from different ethnic backgrounds (Hispanic, Black, White and Native American) and income brackets (measured by those who are eligible for a full price lunch, a reduced-price lunch and no lunch subsidy), according to the study. Disadvantaged children and Hispanic children benefited the most.........
December 13, 2005
Key To Halting Weight Gain
Leptin, a hormone produced by the body's fat cells and involved in the regulation of body weight, was first discovered in 1994. It was thought leptin itself would be a key to curing obesity in humans, but the hypothesis did not readily translate into weight loss in obese people. Using mouse models, UT Southwestern scientists have now shown that if enough receptors are present on the fat cells, it is impossible for the cells to store fat and obesity would be blocked.
The new findings, appearing in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and currently available online, bring scientists a step closer to understanding obesity in humans, said Dr. Roger Unger, director of the Touchstone Diabetes Research Center at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.
" We now believe that people with naturally high levels of leptin receptors may not gain weight as rapidly over time as people who have low levels of leptin receptors," said Dr. Unger. "It could explain why some people can eat more and do not gain weight."
To test this hypothesis, the UT Southwestern scientists used genetically modified rats in which the leptin receptor remained present in large quantities even during marked overfeeding. In normal mice, the high-fat diet caused massive obesity with enlargement of fat cells to almost three times their normal size. In mice with the forced overexpression of the leptin receptor on their fat cells no obesity occurred, even though they too were fed high-fat, highly caloric diets.........
December 13, 2005
Treat Leukemia With Green Tea Extract
In the small case study, the scientists report on four patients who appeared to have an improvement in the clinical state of their disease after starting over-the-counter products containing epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an extract of green tea. Three of the four patients met the standard criteria used to define a response therapy for clinical trials. These same investigators had previously shown that EGCG kills leukemia cells from patients with CLL in the test tube by interrupting the communication signals they need to survive. That study was published in Blood in 2004.
"The experience of these individuals provides some suggestion that our previously published laboratory findings may actually translate into clinical effects for patients with this disease," says Tait Shanafelt, M.D., Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead author of the article. Despite these encouraging preliminary findings, he urges caution. "We do not know how a number of patients were taking similar products and failed to have any benefit. We also do still not know the optimal dose that should be used, the frequency with which patients should take the medication, and what side effects will be observed with long-term administration."
Dr. Shanafelt and colleagues say more studies are needed to determine these things before they would recommend widespread use by patients. Dr. Shanafelt is also the lead investigator in an ongoing clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute studying pharmacologic doses of EGCG in pill form for patients with CLL.........
December 13, 2005
Cells can live without molecules once considered essential
Researchers have long believed a certain biochemical pathway involved in the folding and delivery of proteins to cell membranes is essential for survival. Now University of Florida scientists have discovered that Streptococcus mutans, the decay-causing organism that thrives in a number of a mouth, can do just fine without it.
The findings, reported this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have rocked the cellular biology scientific community, which has long considered the pathway to be crucial. The report may also explain why strains of the bacteria can survive in the harsh acidic environment they create in the mouth.
"We were met with skepticism ..... because the dogma was that this biochemical pathway is key for all living cells," said study investigator Jeannine Brady, an associate professor of oral biology at the UF College of Dentistry. "As far as we know, this is the first example of any bacteria that can cope without this pathway; all of the existing literature indicated it is vital.".
The signal recognition particle, or SRP, pathway is a primary mechanism by which proteins are chaperoned from cellular assembly lines, where they are made, to the protective outer surface of the cells, where they are inserted. Without a steady infusion of proteins, the membrane weakens and the cell - in this case, a bacterium - becomes unable to protect itself from harsh environmental conditions.
In the human mouth, its natural environment, it is typically S. mutans that goes on the attack. When sugary foods are eaten, the S. mutans population explodes, excreting lactic acid as it digests sugar. The acid makes life difficult for other helpful bacteria and demineralizes tooth enamel, causing decay.........
December 13, 2005
Aspirin May Cut Risk of Esophageal Cancer
These findings, by Thomas L. Vaughan, M.D., M.P.H., and his colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will appear Nov. 8 in the online edition of The Lancet Oncology. Scientists at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and The Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston also collaborated on the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
In the largest and longest observational study of its kind, lead author Vaughan and his colleagues studied the impact of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, on changes in the lining of the esophagus that signal the advancement toward cancer.
"We found that people with Barrett's esophagus who regularly took NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen did not go on to get cancer as frequently or as soon as people who did not take these medications regularly," said Vaughan, head of the Epidemiology Program and member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division. "Current users of NSAIDs had one-third the risk of getting esophageal adenocarcinoma as compared to never users," he said.
Five years after joining the study, the incidence of esophageal cancer was 14.4 percent among never users, 9.7 percent among former users (those who had used NSAIDs regularly for a year or more previous to joining the study) and 6.6 percent among current users (those who took NSAIDs at least once a week).
Because this was a long-term observational study and not a clinical trial, the investigators cannot recommend NSAIDs for people with Barrett's esophagus and they advise anyone who considers taking these medications for this condition should do so under the direction of a physician.........
December 13, 2005
Prematurity Awareness Day
November is Prematurity Awareness month and will be recognized throughout the nation with rallies, expert panel discussions, and tours of neonatal intensive care units. In addition to the space rocket, Niagara Falls in New York; Hoover Dam on the Arizona-Nevada border; the skylines of Philadelphia and Chicago; state capital buildings; and governors' mansions will be lit pink and blue in honor of Prematurity Awareness Day. Also, nearly two dozen state or local government officials will issue proclamations designating November 15 as Prematurity Awareness Day and recognizing the serious crisis of premature birth.
"Prematurity is now the nation's leading killer of newborns," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "It has now reached epidemic proportions - 499,008 babies were born premature in 2003, the most recent year for which we have final data. The health consequences for infant survivors can be devastating: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and other neurological conditions. Our purpose today is to raise public awareness about prematurity, and to mobilize the political will to act.".
Dr. Howse will hit the Prematurity Awareness Day Campaign trail in New York City on November 15, traveling in one of two specially-designed pink and blue buses that will visit Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. One bus will carry celebrities, civic and corporate leaders, and maternal and child health experts who will make stops at key locations to talk about the dangers of prematurity (birth at less than 37 weeks gestation) and what Americans can do to help prevent premature births.........
December 12, 2005
Washington University Researchers Study Gambling
Image courtesy Washington University In St. LouisMore than 80 percent of the U.S. population gambles at some time in their lives. It might be the lottery, bingo or poker. Most never need therapy for problem gambling, but others lose control and lose their houses or cars and damage family relationships as a result of compulsive gambling.
Little is known about why people gamble and how to predict who is likely to become a pathological gambler, but scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a diagnostic tool for identifying pathological gambling disorder, and they're beginning to learn who is at risk and what causes the problems.
Investigators from the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work have developed a tool known as the Gambling Assessment Module (GAM)© that can help determine whether a person is a pathological gambler and what particular type of gambling triggers problems for that individual. The assumption is that different people have problems with different types of gambling and that scientists would do better not to lump football betting, slot machines, bingo and craps under a single umbrella just as they would not consider marijuana, cocaine and heroin simply as "drugs."
"We hope to be able to move beyond the question of whether a person is a pathological gambler or not and do what we do in substance abuse research," says Renee M. Cunningham-Williams Ph.D., visiting associate professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and principal investigator on several gambling studies. "If a person is dependent upon marijuana, for example, they might have a very different profile than one who is dependent upon cocaine. We're trying to move gambling research in that direction."
Substance abuse is a good model for gambling disorders, she says, because much of the language used to describe gambling disorders is identical to criteria used to diagnose substance abuse disorders.........
December 12, 2005
Eye's Structure, Muscles Engineered
The task of orienting the eyes is more complicated than it might seem at first glance, notes senior investigator Dora Angelaki, Ph.D., Alumni Endowed Professor of Neurobiology.
When we roll our head sideways, our eyes must counter-roll or move in the opposite direction to keep the visual world stable on the retina," Angelaki explains. "This is a well-studied reflex called the vestibulo-ocular reflex or VOR, and it's what lets us see clearly when we walk, drive a car or turn around to see a friend."
Adding to the complexity, rotation of a round, three-dimensional object such as the eye has a property known as non-commutativity. This means that the result of a series of motions - a quarter-turn left and a half-turn up, for example - is dependent on the order in which those motions are performed. Reverse the order of two steps in the series of motions, and the end result is different.
Researchers began to debate in the late 1980s whether the complexities of these problems were handled solely by signals from the brain or accomplished via contributions both from the brain and from the eye. The latter group theorized that the "motor plant" of the eye - which includes the eye, the orbit or eye socket and the muscles that pull on it - could handle some aspects of these tasks without input from the brain. The different models suggested very different things about the way the brain controls eye movement.........
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