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Nerve stimulation for severe depression changes brain function (5/9/2013)

Nerve stimulation for severe depression changes brain function (5/9/2013) | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it

For nearly a decade, doctors have used an implanted electronic stimulator to treat severe depression in people who don't respond to standard antidepressant therapy.

Now, preliminary brain scan studies conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are beginning to reveal the processes occurring in the brain during stimulation and may provide some clues about how the device improves depression. They found that vagus nerve stimulation brings about changes in brain metabolism weeks or even months before patients begin to feel better.

The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Brain Stimulation and are now available online.

"Previous studies involving large numbers of people have demonstrated that many with treatment-resistant depression improve with vagus nerve stimulation," says first author Charles R. Conway, MD, associate professor of psychiatry. "But little is known about how this stimulation works to relieve depression. We focused on specific brain regions known to be connected to depression."

Conway's team followed 13 people with treatment-resistant depression. Their symptoms had not improved after many months of treatment with as many as five different antidepressant medications. Most had been depressed for at least two years, but some patients had been clinically depressed for more than 20 years.

All of the participants had surgery to insert a device to electronically stimulate the left vagus nerve, which runs down the side of the body from the brainstem to the abdomen. Once activated, the device delivers a 30-second electronic stimulus to the vagus nerve every five minutes.

To establish the nature of the treatment's effects on brain activity, the researchers performed positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging prior to the initiation of stimulation, and again three and 12 months after stimulation had begun.

Eventually, nine of the 13 subjects experienced improvements in depression with the treatment. However, in most cases it took several months for improvement to occur.

Remarkably, in those who responded, the scans showed significant changes in brain metabolism following three months of stimulation, which typically preceded improvements in symptoms of depression by several months.

"We saw very large changes in brain metabolism occurring far in advance of any improvement in mood," Conway says. "It's almost as if there's an adaptive process that occurs. First, the brain begins to function differently. Then, the patient's mood begins to improve."

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Did we evolve insomnia as a way to survive? - Futurity

Did we evolve insomnia as a way to survive? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A sound night’s sleep grows more elusive as people get older, but what some call insomnia may actually be an age-old survival mechanism.

For people who live in groups, differences in sleep patterns commonly associated with age help ensure that at least one person is awake at all times, a study of modern hunter-gatherers in Tanzania shows.

The findings suggest that mismatched sleep schedules and restless nights may be an evolutionary leftover from a time many, many years ago, when a lion lurking in the shadows might try to eat you at 2 am.

“The idea that there’s a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during nighttime sleep,” says coauthor David Samson, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University at the time of the study.

The Hadza people of northern Tanzania live by hunting and gathering their food, following the rhythms of day and night just as humans did for hundreds of thousands of years before people started growing crops and herding livestock.

They live and sleep in groups of 20 to 30 people. During the day, men and women go their separate ways to forage for tubers, berries, honey, and meat in the savanna woodlands near Tanzania’s Lake Eyasi and surrounding areas. Then each night they reunite in the same place, where young and old alike sleep outside next to their hearth, or together in huts made of woven grass and branches.

“They are as modern as you and me. But they do tell an important part of the human evolutionary story because they live a lifestyle that is the most similar to our hunting and gathering past,” says coauthor Alyssa Crittenden, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“They sleep on the ground, and have no synthetic lighting or controlled climate—traits that characterized the ancestral sleeping environment for early humans.”
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Neurologists Have Made an Instrument You Can Play With Your Mind

Neurologists Have Made an Instrument You Can Play With Your Mind | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
An instrument that emits notes according to a person's brain signals is the latest example of mind-controlled technology helping those who have limited movement to engage with the world.

The device neurologists dubbed the Encephalophone won't be popping out Top 40 hits any time soon, but it could still eventually help those who have had a stroke or are restricted by paralysis to engage with music, a task that has been shown to have significant therapeutic benefits.

Marrying electronic tones with brain waves is far from new, with sound being used to observe brain activity barely a decade after electroencephalography – brain wave recording – was first developed.

What is novel in this innovation is the level of accuracy and precision volunteers have produced in the manipulation of specific notes in a musical scale.

Over the decades there have been a variety of attempts to use brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to produce music, with some success.

In 2011 researchers in the UK used a BCI to allow patients to select and alter the intensity of a pre-selected set of notes by focussing on icons on a screen.

But there's a world of difference using concentration to press a virtual button and accurately selecting notes on a scale.

Advances in BCI technology are enabling finer degrees of control over diverse technologies, making it possible for those who have lost control of limbs to walk, manipulate objects, or even drive again.
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Memory-enhancing drug reverses effects of traumatic brain injury in mice

Memory-enhancing drug reverses effects of traumatic brain injury in mice | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Whether caused by a car accident that slams your head into the dashboard or repeated blows to your cranium from high-contact sports, traumatic brain injury can be permanent. There are no drugs to reverse the cognitive decline and memory loss, and any surgical interventions must be carried out within hours to be effective, according to the current medical wisdom. But a compound previously used to enhance memory in mice may offer hope: Rodents who took it up to a month after a concussion had memory capabilities similar to those that had never been injured.

The study “offers a glimmer of hope for our traumatic brain injury patients,” says Cesario Borlongan, a neuroscientist who studies brain aging and repair at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Borlongan, who reviewed the new paper, notes that its findings are especially important in the clinic, where most rehabilitation focuses on improving motor—not cognitive—function.

Traumatic brain injuries, which cause cell death and inflammation in the brain, affect 2 million Americans each year. But the condition is difficult to study, in part because every fall, concussion, or blow to the head is different. Some result in bleeding and swelling, which must be treated immediately by drilling into the skull to relieve pressure. But under the microscope, even less severe cases appear to trigger an “integrated stress response,” which throws protein synthesis in neurons out of whack and may make long-term memory formation difficult.
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Algorithm beats experts at diagnosing heart rhythm - Futurity

Algorithm beats experts at diagnosing heart rhythm - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A new algorithm can sift through hours of heart rhythm data generated by some wearable monitors to find sometimes life-threatening irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias.

The algorithm, which researchers explain in a paper on arXiv, performs better than trained cardiologists, and has the added benefit of being able to sort through data from remote locations where people don’t have routine access to cardiologists.

The researchers say their algorithm could bring quick, accurate diagnoses of heart arrhythmias to people without ready access to cardiologists.

“One of the big deals about this work, in my opinion, is not just that we do abnormality detection but that we do it with high accuracy across a large number of different types of abnormalities,” says Awni Hannun, a graduate student at Stanford University and co-lead author of the paper. “This is definitely something that you won’t find to this level of accuracy anywhere else.”
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Two British men become first to give birth after putting gender surgery on hold

Two British men become first to give birth after putting gender surgery on hold | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Two British men have become the first in the country to give birth after putting their gender transitions on hold.

Hayden Cross, 21, and Scott Parker, 23, were both born women, but chose to have children before full surgery made it impossible.

In April Mr Parker gave birth to his daughter Sara who was conceived following a drunken one-night stand with a friend in August last year.

Last month Mr Cross delivered his daughter Trinity-Leigh via Caesarean section, after he found a sperm donor on Facebook and inseminated himself.

The pair are now planning to return to gender reassignment surgery as quickly as possible.

Mr Cross was born Paige but has been living legally as a man for more than three years and taking male ­hormones, which have given him facial hair and a deep voice.

He had asked the NHS to freeze his eggs before completing the transition in the hope that he might have children in later years. But the health service refused.

“I faced the prospect of not becoming the man I’m supposed to be, physically, or a dad,” he told The Sun newspaper.

"I found the donor on the internet. I looked on Facebook for a group and found one — it’s been shut down now. I didn’t have to pay.

“The man came to my house, he passed me the sperm in a pot and I did it via a syringe.

“I found I was pregnant two weeks after the sperm was inserted. I was happy but I also knew it would be backtracking on my transition.

“It’s a very female thing to carry a baby and it goes against everything I feel in my body.”

Mr Cross said he does not know the name of the biological father.

Mr Parker gave birth seven weeks before Mr Cross.

He had been living as a man for two years but put his transition on hold to have Sara.
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The weird power of the placebo effect, explained

The weird power of the placebo effect, explained | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Over the last several years, doctors noticed a mystifying trend: Fewer and fewer new pain drugs were getting through double-blind placebo control trials, the gold standard for testing a drug’s effectiveness.

In these trials, neither doctors nor patients know who is on the active drug and who is taking an inert pill. At the end of the trial, the two groups are compared. If those who actually took the drug report significantly greater improvement than those on placebo, then it’s worth prescribing.

Researchers found when they started looking closely at pain drug trials in that an average of 27 percent of patients in clinical trials in 1996 reported pain reduction from the new drug compared to placebo. In 2013, it was 9 percent.

What this showed was not that the drugs were getting worse, but that “the placebo response is growing bigger over time,” but only in the US, explains Jeffrey Mogil, the McGill University pain researcher who co-discovered the trend. And it’s not just growing stronger in pain medicine. Placebos are growing in strength in antidepressants and anti-psychotic studies as well.

“The placebo effect is the most interesting phenomenon in all of science,” Mogil says. “It’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology,” and is subject to everything from the drug ads we see to our interactions with health care providers to the length of a clinical trial.

Scientists have been studying this incredibly complex interface in great detail over the past 15 years, and they’re finding that sugar pills are stranger and more useful than we’ve previously imagined. The new science of placebo is bringing new understanding to why alternative treatments — like acupuncture and reiki — help some people. And it could also potentially allow us to one day prescribe smaller doses of pain drugs to help address the opioid crisis currently ravaging America.

Most instructively, the science finds that since we can’t separate a medicine from the placebo effect, shouldn’t we use it to our advantage?
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Friends beat family for aging well - Futurity

Friends beat family for aging well - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Among older adults, friendships are actually a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members, research shows.

In a pair of studies involving nearly 280,000 people, William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, also found that friendships become increasingly important to one’s happiness and health across the lifespan.

“Friendships become even more important as we age,” says Chopik. “Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”

For the first study, Chopik analyzed survey information about relationships and self-rated health and happiness from 271,053 participants of all ages from nearly 100 countries. The second study looked at data from a separate survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness from 7,481 older adults in the United States.

According to the first study, both family and friend relationships were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships became a stronger predictor of health and happiness at advanced ages.

The second study also showed that friendships were very influential—when friends were the source of strain, participants reported more chronic illnesses; when friends were the source of support, participants were happier.
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Oral sex producing unstoppable bacteria - BBC News

Oral sex producing unstoppable bacteria - BBC News | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Oral sex is producing dangerous gonorrhoea and a decline in condom use is helping it to spread, the World Health Organization has said.

It warns that if someone contracts gonorrhoea, it is now much harder to treat, and in some cases impossible.

The sexually transmitted infection is rapidly developing resistance to antibiotics.

Experts said the situation was "fairly grim" with few new drugs on the horizon.

Around 78 million people pick up the STI each year and it can cause infertility.

The World Health Organization analysed data from 77 countries which showed gonorrhoea's resistance to antibiotics was widespread.

Dr Teodora Wi, from the WHO, said there had even been three cases - in Japan, France and Spain - where the infection was completely untreatable.

She said: "Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug, every time you introduce a new class of antibiotics to treat gonorrhoea, the bug becomes resistant."

Worryingly, the vast majority of gonorrhoea infections are in poor countries where resistance is harder to detect.

"These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg," she added.
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Why You Will One Day Have a Chip in Your Brain | Backchannel

Why You Will One Day Have a Chip in Your Brain | Backchannel | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Implanting a microchip inside the brain to augment its mental powers has long been a science fiction trope. Now, the brain computer interface is suddenly the hot new thing in tech. This spring, Elon Musk started a new company, Neuralink, to do it. Facebook, at its F8 developer’s conference, showed a video of an ALS patient typing with her brain. But earlier to the game was Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who in 2013 made a bundle by selling his company, Braintree, to Paypal for $800 million. Last year, he used $100 million of that to start Kernel, a company that is exploring how to build and implant chips into the skulls of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's patients to reprogram their neural networks to restore some of their lost abilities.
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High-tech wound dressing glows if it has to go

Open wounds are something of a paradox – they need to be checked regularly, yet taking the dressing off too often just increases the risk of infection. That's why a group of Swiss researchers has developed a new "glowing" bandage that lets caregivers monitor the healing progress of wounds, from the outside.

Known as Flusitex (Fluorescence sensing integrated into medical textiles), the technology is being developed by a team consisting of scientists from Swiss research group EMPA, ETH Zurich, Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM) and University Hospital Zurich. Here's how it works ...

When a wound is healing normally, the pH of its fluids initially rises to 8, before settling down to 5 or 6. Should it become chronic, however, the pH fluctuates between 7 and 8.

The bandage incorporates custom-made molecules composed of benzalkonium chloride and pyranine. These fluoresce when exposed to pH levels of around 7.5 – the chronic wound "sweet spot." In order to see that fluorescence, clinicians just need to shine an ultraviolet light on the dressing. They can then leave the dressing in place if normal healing is indicated.
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The Mutation That Helped Ancient Humans Survive Frostbite Probably Gave Us Arthritis

The Mutation That Helped Ancient Humans Survive Frostbite Probably Gave Us Arthritis | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
When humans began their slow migration out of Africa some 100,000 years ago, they carried with them the genetic seeds necessary to help survive the bitter chill of Europe and Asia.

But, unknowingly, in the same genes lurked a painful burden that afflicts millions today – with a new study finding that a gene variant that helped our ancestors survive extreme climates and frostbite also increases the likelihood of developing arthritis.

According to researchers at Stanford and Harvard universities, a variant of the GDF5 gene – which is associated with bone growth and joint formation – has two effects on those that carry mutations of the gene: it reduces bone length (and, subsequently, height), and it can almost double the chance of osteoarthritis.

"It's clear that the genetic machinery around a gene can have a dramatic impact on how it works," says one of the researchers, human evolutionary biologist Terence Capellini, now at Harvard University.

"The variant that decreases height is lowering the activity of GDF5 in the growth plates of the bone. Interestingly, the region that harbours this variant is closely linked to other mutations that affect GDF5 activity in the joints, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis in the knee and hip."

In the new study, the team identified a previously unknown region of DNA surrounding the GDF5 gene. Within this region – called GROW1 – the researchers found a nucleotide change that is prevalent in Europeans and Asians, but which rarely occurs in Africans.

The thinking goes that this genetic change – which is found in half of Europeans and Asians – was favoured when modern humans made the trek out of Africa between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, conferring some kind of physiological benefit to the migrants on the trail.

"Because it's been positively selected, this gene variant is present in billions of people," says developmental biologist David Kingsley from Stanford University.
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Human Emotions Really Are Affected by Gut Bacteria, New Study Suggests

Human Emotions Really Are Affected by Gut Bacteria, New Study Suggests | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The more we find out about the bacteria that live in our gut, the more we're coming to realise how these microbiota could have an impact on every facet of our lives – and not just our physical health and well-being, but our thoughts and emotions too.

A new study has identified associations between two kinds of gut microbiota and how they affect people's emotional responses, and the researchers say it's the first evidence of behavioural differences related to microbial composition in healthy humans.

Up until now, most research looking into how gut organisms influence emotions has been conducted on animals, with scientists finding that the bacterial composition of rodent guts can have an effect on the animals' behaviour.

Now, a team led by gastroenterologist Kirsten Tillisch at UCLA has shown that the same kind of associations appear to be affecting human emotional reactions.

The researchers took faecal samples from 40 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 55. When the samples were analysed, the participants were divided into two groups based on their microbiota composition.

One of the groups showed a greater abundance of a bacterium genus called Bacteroides, while the other group demonstrated more clusters of a genus called Prevotella.

Next, the team scanned the brains of the participants via functional magnetic resonance imaging, while showing them images designed to provoke a positive, negative, or neutral emotional response.

What the researchers found was that the group with greater abundance of Bacteroides in their gut bacteria showed greater thickness of the grey matter in the frontal cortex and insula – brain regions which process complex information – and also a larger volume of the hippocampus, which is involved with memory.

In contrast, the women with higher levels of Prevotella demonstrated lower volume in these areas, and demonstrated greater connections between emotional, attentional and sensory brain regions.
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Here's what happens when you overheat - Futurity

Here's what happens when you overheat - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Your body has a maximum operating temperature, according to a physician who knows an overheated person when she sees one.

When you heat up, your body has ways to keep you at a temperature where your enzymes work optimally, says Jaiva Larsen of the University of Arizona, where the temperature has reached 116° F this week. Enzymes are proteins that speed up specific chemical reactions in the body.

To help keep you cool, you begin to perspire and your blood vessels dilate. But if you begin to overheat, you can become dehydrated from all that sweating, or your electrolyte balance can be disrupted because you’ve taken in too much water and not enough salt. That, in turn, can lead to seizures and other serious problems, says Larsen, an emergency medicine physician at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and medical toxicology fellow.

When it comes to heat-related illness, Larsen says she most often treats people who have been exercising in the heat; those who are in vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and infants; those on certain medications; or those who have been using street drugs or alcohol, both of which make them more vulnerable to heat-related illness.

Signs of heat-related illness include dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, slurred speech, and weakness. If these signs arise, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly, Larsen says.
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Electrical stimulation can help people who are too weak to exercise

Electrical stimulation can help people who are too weak to exercise | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Exercise can benefit people who have, or are recovering from, a serious illness, including cancer. The problem is, people who are very ill often have muscle weakness and other side effects that prevent them from being physically active. It’s a catch-22 situation.

Fortunately, there may be a technological solution, and it goes by the rather unattractive name of neuromuscular electrical stimulation – or NMES, for short. You may have seen this type of gadget advertised on TV, promising you a six pack without having to do a single sit-up. All you have to do is strap a belt, studded with electrodes, around your middle and let the electrical impulses do the work. Each time a shock is delivered, the muscles contract, as they would through regular exercise.

NMES may seem newfangled, but the concept is actually very old. The ancient Greeks and Romans were the first to identify the medical potential of electrical stimulation, using electrical fishes to generate shocks to help with pain relief. Pain treatment moved from natural electricity to man-made electricity in the 18th and 19th centuries with the development of the first NMES devices.

Nowadays, we don’t just use these devices for pain relief, but for rehabilitation too. Research shows that it may help minimise the loss of muscle mass and increase strength in the leg muscles when exercise isn’t possible.

A major benefit of these devices is that they can be used at home, without the supervision of an exercise specialist.
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New method can tell how old your cells really are - Futurity

New method can tell how old your cells really are - Futurity | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A new system can consider a wide array of cellular and molecular factors in one comprehensive study to determine the functional age of cells.

The system could eventually help clinicians evaluate and recommend ways to delay some health effects of aging and potentially improve other treatments, including skin graft matching and predicting prospects for wound healing.

These researchers’ results show that the biophysical qualities of cells, such as cell movements and structural features, make better measures of functional age than other factors, including cell secretions and cell energy.

The team of engineers and clinicians examined dermal cells from just underneath the surface of the skin taken from both males and females between the ages of 2 to 96 years.

The researchers hoped to devise a system that through computational analysis could take the measure of various factors of cellular and molecular functions. From that information, they hoped to determine the biological age of individuals more accurately using their cells, in contrast to previous studies, which makes use of gross physiology, or examining cellular mechanisms such as DNA methylation.

“We combined some classic biomolecular hallmarks of aging, and sought to further elucidate the role of biophysical properties of aging cells all in one study,” says Jude M. Phillip, the lead author of the study, who conducted this research while completing his doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
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Personalized cancer vaccines successful in first-stage human trials

Personalized cancer vaccines successful in first-stage human trials | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A cancer vaccine is one of the holy grails of modern medical research, but finding a way to stimulate the immune system to specifically target and kill cancer cells has proven to be a difficult task. Now two recent clinical trials that have produced encouraging results in patients with skin cancer are are providing hope for the development of personalized cancer vaccines tailored to individual patient's tumors.

Both studies focus on neoantigens, which are mutated molecules found only on the surface of cancer cells. Neoantigens prove to be ideal targets for immunotherapy as they are not present on healthy cells. A vaccine's challenge is to train the body's immune cells, known as T cells, to hunt and kill only those specific tumor cells that hold the target neoantigens.

In the first trial, at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, samples of tumors were taken from six patients with melanoma. The patients were identified as having a high risk for recurrence after first having their tumors removed by surgery. For each individual patient the researchers identified up to 20 neoantigens specific to a subject's tumor.
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It's time to inject some sense into the nonsense peddled by the anti-science crowd | Melissa Davey

It's time to inject some sense into the nonsense peddled by the anti-science crowd | Melissa Davey | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Parents of infants could be forgiven for panicking if they read reports about “needle-like”, “potentially dangerous” and “toxic” nanoparticles in Australian infant formula products. Sounds pretty horrifying. There were calls to pull infant formula from shelves this week after the eco-activist group Friends of the Earth issued a media release saying it had ordered independent testing of formula products and had found the nanoparticles, which it said could cause kidney and liver damage. Many major Australian media outlets ran the story.

Here’s the thing. Nanoparticles are simply microscopic particles less than 100 nanometres in size. The nanoparticles being demonised by Friends of the Earth were calcium phosphate crystals, a normal and natural component of human tissue, teeth and bones. A look at the study Friends of the Earth based its scare campaign on reveals rats were injected with the nanoparticles through their abdominal cavity at extremely high concentrations, far greater than those found in baby formula, which is obviously ingested by babies, not injected into them. There is no way conclusions could be drawn between the rat study and the nanoparticles in the infant formula – which dissolve in digestive acids anyway – on supermarket shelves.

Getting it wrong can be dangerous.
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Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds

Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Italian scientists have found that a daily dose of cocoa acts as a dietary supplement to counteract different types of cognitive decline.

They found regularly eating cocoa was linked to improvements in working memory and visual information processing and cocoa could be particularly beneficial for certain people.

Cocoa, is the dried and fermented bean from the cocoa tree used to make delicious chocolate treats. Cocoa has been studied extensively because, well, who wouldn't want that job.

Over the years, it has been found that a range of naturally occurring chemicals in the cocoa bean have therapeutic effects.

For example, polyphenols in dark chocolate were found to increase calmness and contentedness and flavanols were able to reverse age-related memory decline.

Before you start using this an excuse to scoff as much chocolate as humanly possible, just remember that chocolate also contains theobromine, a toxic chemical. Though to be at risk of poisoning yourself, you'd have to eat about 85 full sized chocolate bars.

Despite the large number of claims about the health benefits of cocoa, there are only a limited number of randomised trials and the literature is a mixed bag of results.

In this study, the team looked through the literature for effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on brain activity and, more specifically, what happens if you do this over a long period of time.
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These Genius Fruit Labels Tell Us Why 'Chemical-Free' Is a Useless Term

These Genius Fruit Labels Tell Us Why 'Chemical-Free' Is a Useless Term | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
The idea that there is a difference between "natural" chemicals - like those in fruits and vegetables - and the synthetic version of those chemicals produced in a laboratory is a common misconception.

Marketers often feed off consumer concerns that "human-made" chemicals are bad. But the fact is that all foods, and everything around us, are made up of chemicals, whether they occur in nature or are made in a lab.

Australian chemistry teacher James Kennedy wanted to dispel the myth that chemicals are bad for us. He created an ingredient list for natural products, like the banana above, to show that there are many chemicals in our food's natural flavours and colours.

And some of them have long, scary-sounding names, too.

"There's a tendency for advertisers to use the words 'pure' and 'simple' to describe 'natural' products when they couldn't be more wrong," Kennedy writes on his blog.

"As a Chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of 'chemicals' and demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab."

You can see more "all-natural" posters below, and head over to Kennedy's blog to check out all of his great infographics, like a table of esters and their smells.
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How You Smell Food Could Change How You Gain Weight

How You Smell Food Could Change How You Gain Weight | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Being able to smell food before eating can increase weight gain independently of how much fat is in it, according to a new study carried out on mice, which scientists think points to a link between a sense of smell and metabolism.

Mice fed the same high-fat diet showed big differences in weight gain depending on whether or not their sense of smell had been temporarily switched off.

The researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, say their study hints at a connection between what animals can smell and how they burn calories: so if they can't smell their food, they burn off fat rather than storing it.

"This paper is one of the first studies that really shows if we manipulate olfactory inputs we can actually alter how the brain perceives energy balance, and how the brain regulates energy balance," says one of the team, Céline Riera.

Using gene therapy, olfactory neurons in one group of test mice were temporarily zapped before eventually growing back after several weeks.
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Forget the Blood of Teens. This Pill Promises to Extend Life for a Nickel a Pop.

Forget the Blood of Teens. This Pill Promises to Extend Life for a Nickel a Pop. | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Nir Barzilai has a plan. It’s a really big plan that might one day change medicine and health care as we know it. Its promise: extending our years of healthy, disease-free living by decades.

And Barzilai knows about the science of aging. He is, after all, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. And, as such, he usually talks about his plan with the caution of a seasoned researcher. Usually. Truth is, Barzilai is known among his colleagues for his excitability—one author says he could pass as the older brother of Austin Powers—and sometimes he can’t help himself. Like the time he referred to his plan—which, among other things, would demonstrate that human aging can be slowed with a cheap pill—as “history-making.” In 2015, he stood outside of the offices of the Food and Drug Administration, flanked by a number of distinguished researchers on aging, and likened the plan to a journey to “the promised land.”
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What will it take for IBM’s Watson technology to stop being a dud in health care?

What will it take for IBM’s Watson technology to stop being a dud in health care? | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
Paul Tang was with his wife in the hospital just after her knee replacement surgery, a procedure performed on about 700,000 people in the U.S. every year. The surgeon came by, and Tang, who is himself a primary-care physician, asked when he expected her to be back at her normal routines, given his experience with patients like her. The surgeon kept giving vague non-answers. “Finally it hit me,” says Tang. “He didn’t know.” Tang would soon learn that most physicians don’t know how their patients do in the ordinary measures of life back at home and at work—the measures that most matter to patients.

Tang still sees patients as a physician, but he’s also chief health transformation officer for IBM’s Watson Health. That’s the business group developing health-care applications for Watson, the machine-learning system that IBM is essentially betting its future on. Watson could deliver information that physicians are not getting now, says Tang. It could tell a doctor, for instance, how long it took for patients similar to Tang’s wife to be walking without pain, or climbing stairs. It could even help analyze images and tissue samples and determine the best treatments for any given patient.
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Men Experience Their Own Biological Clock, IVF Study Shows

Men Experience Their Own Biological Clock, IVF Study Shows | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
While it's well known that women start to experience a decline in fertility in their thirties, scientists have found new evidence suggesting men also have a 'biological clock' that limits their ability to reproduce as they get older.

A new study shows that in vitro fertilisation (IVF) delivery rates are affected by the age of the male partner, with successful IVF procedures becoming less likely as would-be fathers get older.

The research, led by reproductive biologist Laura Dodge from Harvard University, shows that when it comes to producing babies through IVF, it's not just the age of the woman that matters, even though that may be the dominating factor affecting successful outcomes.

Dodge's team analysed 15 years' worth of IVF treatments conducted in Boston between 2000 and 2014, encompassing some 19,000 IVF cycles performed for almost 8,000 couples.

What they found is that as the males in the couples got older, the chances of live birth were reduced – but the effect was only apparent in couples where the woman wasn't older than 40.

From the data set, the researchers divided the IVF participants (both male and female) into four age bands: under 30, 30–35 years old, 35–40, and 40–42.

The cumulative live birth rate – measured from up to six cycles of IVF treatment – was lowest in couples where the female partner was aged 40–42, which wasn't a surprise, given what we know about decreasing female fertility as women age.

In this band, where females were aged 40–42, the age of the male partner had no impact on birth rate, but in the younger female bands, cumulative live birth rates were found to decline as male partners grew older.

"Generally, we saw no significant decline in cumulative live birth when women had a male partner the same age or younger," says Dodge.

"However, women aged 35–40 did significantly benefit from having a male partner who is under age 30, in that they see a nearly 30 percent relative improvement in cumulative incidence of live birth when compared to women whose partner is 30–35 – from 54 percent to 70 percent."
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Homing in on how the brain helps us seek pleasure and avoid pain

Homing in on how the brain helps us seek pleasure and avoid pain | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
In 2009, Tye joined Deisseroth’s lab at Stanford. Deisseroth had already developed optogenetics, which gave researchers a much more precise way to identify the contributions of individual neurons within a circuit. Along with others in the lab, Tye used optogenetics to probe the connection between two parts of the amygdala, an almond-shaped region that is crucial to anxiety and fear. She first identified neurons in one area (known as the basolateral amygdala) that formed connections to neurons in another amygdalar area (known as the central nucleus) by sending out projections of nerve fibers. When she stimulated those basolateral amygdala neurons, she was able to reduce anxiety in mice. That is, she could cause the animals to spend more time in open spaces and less time cowering to the side. This was surprising, because when researchers stimulated the amygdala as a whole, the mice’s behavior grew more anxious.
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Cocoa and chocolate are not just treats—they are good for your cognition

Cocoa and chocolate are not just treats—they are good for your cognition | The future of medicine and health | Scoop.it
A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands - a phrase commonly used to justify ones chocolate snacking behavior. A phrase now shown to actually harbor some truth, as the cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols: a class of natural compounds that has neuroprotective effects.

In their recent review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, Italian researchers examined the available literature for the effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on different cognitive domains. In other words: what happens to your brain up to a few hours after you eat cocoa flavanols, and what happens when you sustain such a cocoa flavanol enriched diet for a prolonged period of time?

Although randomized controlled trials investigating the acute effect of cocoa flavanols are sparse, most of them point towards a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. Participants showed, among others, enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after having had cocoa flavanols. And for women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less accuracy in performing tasks) that such a night brings about. Promising results for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work shifts.

It has to be noted though, that the effects depended on the length and mental load of the used cognitive tests to measure the effect of acute cocoa consumption. In young and healthy adults, for example, a high demanding cognitive test was required to uncover the subtle immediate behavioral effects that cocoa flavanols have on this group.

The effects of relatively long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from 5 days up to 3 months) has generally been investigated in elderly individuals. It turns out that for them cognitive performance was improved by a daily intake of cocoa flavanols. Factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency were greatly affected. These effects were, however, most pronounced in older adults with a starting memory decline or other mild cognitive impairments.
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