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March 15, 2007, 6:29 PM CT

Video Games Improve Vision

Video Games Improve Vision
As per a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored higher than their non-playing peers.

"Action video game play changes the way our brains process visual information," says Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. "After just 30 hours of training, people who normally don't play video games showed a substantial increase in the spatial resolution of their vision, meaning they could see small, closely packed letters more clearly."

Most of the factors that affect a normal person's ability to read an eye-chart are optical (size of the eye, the shape/thickness of the cornea and lens) and video games will not change those factors. However, there are some types of visual deficits that aren't optical in nature but are instead neural. "It is our hope that video game training can help these people," says Bavelier.

Only certain games create this effect; first-person action games. Shooting games, such as Unreal Tournament, improved vision. More sedate games, such as the puzzle game Tetris, showed no effect. "When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing," says Bavelier. "These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and possibly everyday life".........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


March 14, 2007, 10:23 PM CT

Obesity high among Baltimore's homeless

Obesity high among Baltimore's homeless
A small but telling study from the Johns Hopkins Childrens Center reveals an ominous trend: more than expected, obesity shadows Baltimores homeless children and their caregivers, putting them at high risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.

Not long ago, homeless people were undernourished. Our study shows the pendulum has swung the other way: Obesity might be the new form of malnutrition among the homeless, says lead author Kathleen Schwarz, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Childrens Center. More disturbing, it appears that being both poor and homeless may increase ones obesity risk.

The study, reported in the recent issue of the online journal Medscape General Medicine, looked at 60 children, ages 2 to 18, and 31 caregivers recruited from eight homeless shelters in Baltimore. Nearly half of the children (25 out of 60) were either overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. Children with weight in the 85th to 95th percentile for their age are considered at risk, while those with weight above the 95th percentile are classified as overweight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control does not use the term obese for children. Compared with children nationally, Baltimores homeless poor had a higher percentage of at-risk or overweight children, pointing to homelessness as an added risk.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 13, 2007, 10:15 PM CT

Belly fat may drive inflammatory processes

Belly fat may drive inflammatory processes
As researchers learn more about the key role of inflammation in diabetes, heart disease and other disorders, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that fat in the belly may be an important promoter of that inflammation.

Excess fat is known to be linked to disease, but now the scientists have confirmed that fat cells inside the abdomen are secreting molecules that increase inflammation. It's the first evidence of a potential mechanistic link between abdominal fat and systemic inflammation.

For years, researchers have been aware of a relationship between disease risk and excess belly fat. "Apple-shaped" people, who carry fat in the abdomen, have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other problems than "pear-shaped" people, who tend to store fat in the hips and thighs. Too much abdominal fat is linked to a defect in the body's response to insulin. During medical exams, some physicians measure waist circumference to identify patients at increased risk for these problems.

Not just any belly fat will cause inflammation, however. Back in 2004, Washington University researchers observed that removing abdominal fat with liposuction did not provide the metabolic benefits normally linked to similar amounts of fat loss induced by dieting or exercising.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 13, 2007, 9:41 PM CT

Jet Engines Solve the Mysteries of the Voice

Jet Engines Solve the Mysteries of the Voice
Eventhough researchers know about basic voice production-the two "vocal folds" in the larynx vibrate and pulsate airflow from the lungs-the larynx is one of the body's least understood organs.

Sound produced by vocal-fold vibration has been extensively researched, but the specifics of how airflow actually affects sound have not been shown using an animal model-until now.

Vortices, or areas of rotational motion that look like smoke rings, produce sound in jet engines. New research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) uses methods developed from the study of jet noise to identify similar vortices in an animal model.

Sid Khosla, MD, lead author of the study, says vortices may help explain why individual voices are different and can have a different richness and quality to their sound.

"If vortices didn't affect sound production, the voice would sound mechanical," says Khosla, assistant professor of otolaryngology. "The vortices can produce sound by many mechanisms. This complexity produces a sound that makes my voice different from yours."

Khosla and his team report their findings in the March edition of the Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology.

"Understanding how airflow patterns affect sound in a jet engine (aeroacoustics) helps us determine how we can reduce jet noise," says coauthor Ephraim Gutmark, PhD, a UC professor of aerospace engineering. "We can apply the same physical understanding of aeroacoustics to study normal and abnormal voice".........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


March 12, 2007, 9:25 PM CT

Music Training 'Tunes' Human Auditory System

Music Training 'Tunes' Human Auditory System
A newly published study by Northwestern University scientists suggests that Mom was right when she insisted that you continue music lessons -- even after it was clear that a professional music career was not in your future.

The study, which will appear in the recent issue of Nature Neuroscience, is the first to provide concrete evidence that playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstems sensitivity to speech sounds. This finding has broad implications because it applies to sound encoding skills involved not only in music but also in language.

The findings indicate that experience with music at a young age in effect can "fine-tune" the brain's auditory system. "Increasing music experience appears to benefit all children -- whether musically exceptional or not -- in a wide range of learning activities," says Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and senior author of the study.

"Our findings underscore the pervasive impact of musical training on neurological development. Yet music classes are often among the first to be cut when school budgets get tight. That's a mistake," says Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology and Physiology and professor of communication sciences and disorders.

"Our study is the first to ask whether enhancing the sound environment -- in this case with musical training -- will positively affect the way an individual encodes sound even at a level as basic as the brainstem," says Patrick Wong, primary author of "Musical Experience Shapes Human Brainstem Encoding of Linguistic Pitch Patterns." An old structure from an evolutionary standpoint, the brainstem once was thought to only play a passive role in auditory processing.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 11, 2007, 8:39 PM CT

Health Benefits Of Cocoa Vitamin

Health Benefits Of Cocoa Vitamin Coca plant
The health benefits of epicatechin, a compound found in cocoa, are so striking that it may rival penicillin and anaesthesia in terms of importance to public health, reports Marina Murphy in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI. Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told C&I that epicatechin is so important that it should be considered a vitamin.

Hollenberg has spent years studying the benefits of cocoa drinking on the Kuna people in Panama. He observed that the risk of 4 of the 5 most common killer diseases: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, is reduced to less then 10% in the Kuna. They can drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week. Natural cocoa has high levels of epicatechin.

'If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing that they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine,' Hollenberg says. We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of 4 of the 5 most common diseases in the western world, how important does that make epicatechin? I would say very important.

Nutrition expert Daniel Fabricant says that Hollenbergs results, eventhough observational, are so impressive that they may even warrant a rethink of how vitamins are defined. Epicatechin does not currently meet the criteria. Vitamins are defined as essential to the normal functioning, metabolism, regulation and growth of cells and deficiency is commonly associated with disease. At the moment, the science does not support epicatechin having an essential role. But, Fabricant, who is vice president scientific affairs at the Natural Products Association, says: 'the link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking, it should be investigated further. It may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency,' he says.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 11, 2007, 8:35 PM CT

Hormone Activity Explains Adolescent Mood Swings

Hormone Activity Explains Adolescent Mood Swings
The "raging hormones" of puberty are known to produce mood swings and stress for most teenagers, making it difficult to cope with this period of life. Until now, the specific causes of pubertal anxiety have not been identified, making it harder to understand and treat adolescent angst.

In the current edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists led by Sheryl S. Smith, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, report findings demonstrating that a hormone normally released in response to stress, THP, actually reverses its effect at puberty, when it increases anxiety.

This hormone normally acts like a tranquilizer, acting at sites in the brain that "calm" brain activity. In the adult, this stress hormone helps the individual adapt to stress, with a calming effect produced half an hour after the event.

Specifically, the GABA-A receptor is the target for steroids, such as THP (or allopregnanolone), which reduce anxiety. GABA-A receptors calm activity in the brain. As such, they are the targets for most sedative, tranquilizing drugs.

One sub-type, GABA-A receptors containing the delta subunit, such as alpha4-beta2-delta, has the highest sensitivity to steroids. In order to study its role in puberty, the scientists used a mouse model that reliably predicts the human condition. In this rodent model, the alpha4-beta2-delta receptor normally has very low expression, but increases dramatically at the onset of puberty in the part of the brain that regulates emotion. Paradoxically, THP reduced the inhibition produced by these alpha4-beta2-delta GABA-A receptors, increasing brain activity to produce a state of increased anxiety. Stress also increased anxiety at puberty, due to the paradoxical effects of this hormone that is released by stress.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 8, 2007, 8:38 AM CT

Why women suffer more knee injuries

Why women suffer more knee injuries
Female athletes are up to eight times more likely to suffer knee injuries during their careers than males, and now scientists may be closer to understanding why.

A recent study of 10 female and 10 male NCAA athletes completed within the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Cleveland Clinic observed that female athletes tend to land from a jump with a more flexed ankle, the foot rolling outward with an elevated arch, and more knee abduction and knee internal rotation in comparison to male athletes.

When fatigued, differences between women and men in these movements and loads were even larger, possibly explaining why females may be at greater risk of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during landing.

The study's lead researcher, Scott McLean, was previously at Cleveland Clinic and is now an assistant professor with the Division of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan. The study would be reported in the recent issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

As per the NCAA, female athletes are at least twice as likely to suffer an ACL injury as male athletes and in some cases up to eight times more likely. Research shows that one in 10 female athletes will experience an ACL injury at some point in their career.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 8, 2007, 7:55 AM CT

Mercury contamination of fish

Mercury contamination of fish
The health risks posed by mercury contaminated fish is sufficient to warrant issuing a worldwide general warning to the public particularly children and women of childbearing age-to be careful about how much and which fish they eat.

That is one of the key findings comprising "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" published recently in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.

Developed at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant last August in Madison, Wis., the declaration is a synopsis of the latest scientific knowledge about the danger posed by mercury pollution. It presents 33 principal findings from five synthesis papers prepared by the world's leading mercury researchers and reported in the same issue of Ambio. The declaration and supporting papers summarize what is currently known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on human populations, and its effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife.

Five other major findings in the declaration were:
  • On average, three times more mercury is falling from the sky today than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago as a result of the increasing use of mercury and industrial emissions.........

    Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 6, 2007, 4:05 PM CT

Musculoskeletal Care During Pregnancy

Musculoskeletal Care During Pregnancy
Despite the high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain during pregnancy, few women in underserved populations receive therapy for their low back pain, as per a February 2007 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT). Moreover, scientists observed that pain in a prior pregnancy may predict a high risk for musculoskeletal complaints in future pregnancies.

As per Clayton Skaggs, DC, the study's chief author, 85 percent of women surveyed reported that they had not received therapy for their musculoskeletal pain, and of the small percentage who perceived that their back complaints were addressed, less than 10 percent were satisfied with the symptom relief they obtained.

"Based on the findings of this study, doctors of chiropractic and other health care professionals need to expand the musculoskeletal care available during pregnancy, particularly in underserved populations," Dr. Skaggs said. "As a proactive step, health professionals should consider including back pain screening as part of early obstetrical care to help identify musculoskeletal risk factors and allow for early education and/or therapy".

Scientists surveyed more than 600 women at a clinic that serves predominantly an uninsured, underinsured or Medicaid-insured population. Surveys were offered to all obstetrical patients and were designed to collect information about pregnancy-related pain and quality of life issues. Of those women who responded to the survey, two-thirds reported back pain and nearly half of all women reported pain at two or more locations, including pelvic pain and mid-back pain.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

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