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July 1, 2006, 11:55 AM CT

Clozapine Has Serious Health Consequences

Clozapine Has Serious Health Consequences
Patients who take clozapine, the most effective antipsychotic drug, have significantly higher rates of metabolic syndrome, according to a first-of-a-kind study by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The conditions include high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and insulin resistance. Any one of the conditions increases the risk of serious disease. In combination, the risk grows greater.

More than half the clozapine patients studied had metabolic syndrome while only about 20 percent of those in a comparison group did, researchers report in the recent issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Patients with metabolic syndrome in this study would be expected to have a two-to-threefold increase in cardiovascular disease mortality, the Medical Center Department of Psychiatry researchers state.

"Clozapine is the last hope for many people," said J. Steven Lamberti, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and lead author of the journal article. "But there are long-term health implications. This study suggests that patients who need the most effective medicine are between a rock and a hard place".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


June 30, 2006, 0:07 AM CT

No Link Between Income And Happiness

No Link Between Income And Happiness
While most people think that having more income would make them happier, Princeton University scientists have found that the link is greatly exaggerated and mostly an illusion.

People surveyed about their own happiness and that of others with varying incomes tended to overstate the impact of income on well-being, as per a new study. Eventhough income is widely assumed to be a good measure of well-being, the scientists found that its role is less significant than predicted and that people with higher incomes do not necessarily spend more time in more enjoyable ways.

Two Princeton professors, economist Alan B. Krueger and psychology expert and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, collaborated with colleagues from three other universities on the study, being reported in the June 30 issue of Science. The new findings build on their efforts to develop alternative methods of gauging the well-being of individuals and of society. The new measures are based on people's ratings of their actual experiences, instead of a judgment of their lives as a whole.

"The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory," the scientists wrote. "People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in especially enjoyable activities".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


June 26, 2006, 7:23 PM CT

Building a better brain

Building a better brain
In the modern world in which your children play with all kinds of flashy toys, have access to expensive classes and a number of music compilations promising to make your child smarter, it's hard to sort out the best way to help your child's brain thrive. A recently published policy paper helps put those worries to rest. This is the essence of the paper: what kids need is a secure relationship with adults who adore them.

"It's all about playing with your child," said Eric Knudsen, PhD, the Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine, succinctly summing up a paper coming out in the June 27 advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A child's eventual ability to learn calculus or a second language, he explained, starts with the neurons that are shaped by positive interactions with nurturing adults.

The piece, written by Knudsen and three other members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child including Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, PhD, doesn't just ease parents' toy-buying decisions - it lays out the scientific basis for why helping all kids have the best early experiences is good economic policy.

Their argument is based on work from the diverse fields of economics, neurobiology, developmental psychology and public policy. Working independently, the four authors each came to the conclusion that the earliest years of life forever shape an adult's ability to learn. Eventhough much research has been published on the value of positive early experiences, this paper pulls those strands together into an integrated message that the group hopes will help guide public policy in the future. They've already influenced legislation in Washington state and Nebraska and have begun working with lawmakers around the country with a nonpartisan partner, the National Conference of State Legislatures.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


June 24, 2006, 11:48 PM CT

Role of Environment in Women's Smoking

Role of Environment in Women's  Smoking
Scientists have long known that reasons for smoking include social pressure and other environmental factors, as well as genetic factors based on results of prior twin studies. Now a more comprehensive study of twins by scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) has provided a better understanding of these complex influences. They found that women are far more likely than men to start smoking because of environmental factors, whereas genetic factors appear to play a larger role in influencing men to start smoking.

However, the study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found no differences between the sexes in factors correlation to continued smoking, which appeared to be strongly influenced by genetics. The study, entitled "Gender Differences In Determinants of Smoking Initiation and Persistence in California Twins," looked at factors that influenced twins to start smoking and to continue smoking.

With regard to starting smoking, there was a significant difference between men and women, said Ann Hamilton, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and lead author on the study. "Heritability, which reflects factors correlation to genetic effects, was stronger in men; however, among men who communicated with each other at least weekly, the heritable effect was reduced. This may indicate that the heritable effect in men could be overestimated or able to be affected by environmental factors."........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


June 22, 2006, 9:32 PM CT

Music Enhances Intelligence

Music Enhances Intelligence
A recent volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences takes a closer look at how music evolved and how we respond to it. Contributors to the volume think that animals such as birds, dolphins and whales make sounds analogous to music out of a desire to imitate each other. This ability to learn and imitate sounds is a trait necessary to acquire language and researchers feel that a number of of the sounds animals make may be precursors to human music.

Another study in the volume looks at whether music training can make individuals smarter. Researchers found more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to nonmusicians. They feel these differences are probably not genetic, but instead due to use and practice.

Listening to classical music, especially Mozart, has recently been thought to enhance performance on cognitive tests. Contributors to this volume take a closer look at this assertion and their findings indicate that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable has positive effects on cognition. In addition, the use of music to enhance memory is explored and research suggests that musical recitation enhances the coding of information by activating neural networks in a more united and thus more optimal fashion.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


June 22, 2006, 8:47 PM CT

Risk Of Being Fired Near Retirement

Risk Of Being Fired Near Retirement
Involuntary job loss near retirement more than doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke, scientists at Yale School of Medicine report in a major national study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The results are based on 10-year observations of 4,301 individuals between age 51 and 61 out of which 582 had lost their jobs during that period. The study is the extension of an earlier study, in which the same sample was tracked for six years. The earlier research indicated heightened risk of stroke, but not a definitive link between job loss and heart attacks.

"With longer follow-up and heart attack and stroke events, we were able to better assess the association between employment separation and the medical outcomes," said William T. Gallo, the lead author of the study and associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.

The scientists used 10 years of data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Survey in their research. Starting with a sample of employed individuals, they identified 582 workers who were either laid off or left jobless because of a business closing. The study compared their risk of heart attack and stroke to a group that included 3,719 workers who remained employed. In considering the effect of job loss, the scientists also took into account other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and depressive symptoms.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


June 22, 2006, 6:01 PM CT

Are You A Wolf Or A Sheep?

Are You A Wolf Or A Sheep?
Are all people stressed out by a defeat or does it hurt some more than others? It may depend on whether you're a power-hungry wolf or a sheep, as per University of Michigan psychology researchers.

As per a research findings published in a recent issue of the science journal Hormones and Behavior, U-M's Michelle Wirth and co-authors, Katy Welsh and Oliver Schultheiss, looked at what happens to stress hormone levels when people are defeated in a laboratory contest.

Students competed against each other in pairs on several rounds of a speed-based contest task. Half of participants received feedback that made them believe they lost the contest decisively while the other half received feedback implying they won.

Wirth measured participants' levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released in the body in response to stress and has been implicated in depression and memory loss, in participants' saliva samples before and after the contest.

The U-M scientists also measured participants' non-conscious dominance drive, called the implicit power motive, at the beginning of the study.

Wirth and her colleagues found that cortisol did not go up in all losers. Only participants with a strong implicit power motive were really impacted by the defeat, as reflected in increasing stress hormone levels.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


June 21, 2006, 11:29 PM CT

Why Are Uniforms Uniform?

Why Are Uniforms Uniform?
If someone, somewhere hadn't thought to make team uniforms the same color, we might be stuck watching NBA finals or World Cup soccer matches with only two players and a ref.

It is that color coding, Johns Hopkins University psychology experts have now demonstrated, that allows spectators, players and coaches at major sporting events to overcome humans' natural limit of tracking no more than three objects at a time.

"We've known for some time that human beings are limited to paying attention to no more than three objects at any one time," said Justin Halberda, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the university's' Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"We report the rather surprising result that people can focus on more than three items at a time if those items share a common color," he said. "Our research suggests that the common color allows people to overcome the usual limit, because the 'color coding' enables them to perceive the separate individuals as a single set."

Thus: Miami Heat fans perceive their five white-jerseyed players as a unit in action against five blue-shirted Dallas Mavericks. England's football faithful can track their white-shirted field players against Sweden's yellow-garbed 10. (Since soccer goalies wear different colors than field players, though, fans of both clubs may have to think a moment before remembering which keeper goes with which team.).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


June 21, 2006, 10:20 PM CT

Changes in Experience Cause Brain Rewiring

Changes in Experience Cause Brain Rewiring
Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have discovered that neurons in the brains of mice sprout robust new connections when the animals are adjusting to new experiences. The new connections alter the circuitry of the brain by changing communication between neurons.

The scientists said their findings aid understanding of how procedural learning induces long-term rewiring of the brain. This type of learning is used in mastering skills such as riding a bicycle or typing on a computer.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator Karel Svoboda and colleagues reported their findings in the June 22, 2006, issue of the journal Nature. Other co-authors of the paper included Anthony Holtmaat and Linda Wilbrecht in Svoboda's laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; and Graham Knott and Egbert Welker at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Svoboda is one of a handful of scientists in the world who are pioneering the development of new tools and techniques that permit researchers to observe the brain as it rewires over a period of weeks or months. This summer Svoboda will move to HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus where he will pursue neurobiology studies and projects in optics and microscopy.

In the studies reported in Nature, the scientists used mice that were genetically altered to produce a green fluorescent protein in specific neurons in the neocortex, which is a region of the brain that is known to adapt to new experiences. The scientists followed the growth of dendritic spines in the region of the neocortex that processes tactile information from the animals' whiskers. Sensory information from the whiskers is vitally important for mice as they navigate their environment. Consequently, a significant portion of the mouse's brain is devoted to processing input from whiskers.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


June 21, 2006, 9:59 PM CT

Parents Are Key To Babies Healthy Smiles

Parents Are Key To Babies Healthy Smiles
Parents are the key to good oral health for their children - even before the first baby teeth develop, Medical College of Georgia dentists say.

Dr. Steven Adair, an MCG pediatric dentist, says mothers should start ensuring their child's megawatt smile keeping their own mouths and teeth in good shape before and during pregnancy.

"The bacteria that cause cavities are generally passed from mother to child shortly after the child is born," says Dr. Adair. "If the mother takes care of her teeth by getting cavities filled and brushing on a regular basis, she can reduce the bacterial counts in her mouth and that may result in fewer bacteria being passed on to her baby".

Some research suggests that gum disease in the mother may even be a risk factor for premature and low birth-weight babies, he says.

Even though they don't have teeth, oral hygiene for infants should begin with their first meal.

"I advise parents to start oral cleanings after feedings in infancy with something like a soft washcloth or gauze wrapped around their finger to wipe the milk or formula out of the baby's mouth," Dr. Adair says. "It gets the baby used to the feeling of having his or her mouth cleaned after eating".

Children should never be put to bed with a bottle, unless it's filled with water.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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