The future of medicine and health
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The future of medicine and health
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This Visualization of the Brain’s Word Map Is Really Addicting—Here’s Why

This Visualization of the Brain’s Word Map Is Really Addicting—Here’s Why | The future of medicine and health |
Last week, Nature, the world’s most prestigious science journal, published a beautiful picture of a brain on its cover. The computer-generated image, taken from a paper in the issue, showed the organ’s outer layer almost completely covered with sprinkles of colorful words. The paper presents a “semantic map” revealing which parts of the brain’s cortex—meaning its outer layer, the one responsible for higher thought—respond to various spoken words. The study has generated widespread interest, receiving coverage from newspapers and websites around the world. The paper was also accompanied by an online interactive model that allowed users to explore exactly how words are mapped in our brains. The combination yielded a popular frenzy, one prompting the question: Why are millions of people suddenly so interested in the neuroanatomical distribution of linguistic representations? Have they run out of cat videos?

The answer, I think, is largely the same as the answer to why “This Is Your Brain on X” (where X = food, politics, sex, podcasts, whatever) is a staple of news headlines, often residing above an fMRI image of a brain lit up in fascinating, mysterious patterns: People have a fundamental misunderstanding of the field of neuroscience and what it can tell us.

But before explaining why people shouldn’t be excited about this research, let’s look at what the research tells us and why we should be excited.
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Dreaming brain rhythms lock in memories - BBC News

Dreaming brain rhythms lock in memories - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Disrupting brain activity in sleeping mice, specifically during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase, can stop the animals remembering things they learned that day, a study suggests.

It is the clearest evidence to date that REM sleep is critical for memory.

By switching off certain brain cells, the researchers silenced a particular, rhythmic type of brain function - without waking the mice.

If they did this during REM sleep, the mice failed subsequent memory tests.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

REM sleep is the phase during which, at least in humans, dreams take place - but the question of whether it is important for settling new memories has been difficult to answer.

Recent studies have tended to focus on deep, non-REM sleep instead, during which brain cells fire in various patterns that reflect memory consolidation and "re-play" of the day's experiences.

During REM sleep, while our eyes flicker and our muscles relax, exactly what the brain is doing is something of a mystery. But it is a type of sleep seen across the animal kingdom, in mammals and birds and even lizards.

Especially in animals, REM phases can be quite fleeting. This and other complications have made it difficult to test what effect such sleep has.

Simply waking up humans or animals when they enter the REM phase, for example, causes stress and other problems that can confound any memory tests.
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Does what we eat influence inflammation in the brain?

Does what we eat influence inflammation in the brain? | The future of medicine and health |
It's no secret that diet has a huge impact on health, but a new study suggests that what we eat might even play a role in brain inflammation. The work was conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), with the findings suggesting that changes in diet might influence neurodegeneration in the brain, and potentially even providing researchers with new targets for treatment.

While previous work has inferred that a connection between the gut microbiome and inflammation in the brain, the interaction is still little understood, prompting the BWH researchers to begin a study that aimed to gain more concrete data on the relationship. Their goal was to more precisely work out how the two areas are linked, and how diet might influence that connection.

They started by looking at astrocytes, which are a star-shaped cell type found in both the spinal cord and brain, in laboratory mice with multiple sclerosis (MS). Performing a genome-wide analysis of the cells, the team was able to pinpoint the molecular pathway involved in inflammation.

Turning back to the gut, the team then discovered that molecules derived from an amino acid called tryptophan – found in a number of foods, including turkey – act on that molecular pathway. When a large enough number of the molecules are present, they're actually able to limit brain inflammation.
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Should we edit out genetic disease?

Should we edit out genetic disease? | The future of medicine and health |
As genomic medicine advances, the possibility of manipulating our genetic makeup, and that of our future children, is rapidly becoming a reality. But, even if we could edit out genetic disease, does that mean we should?

The launch of the 100,000 Genomes Project by the government in 2012 is part of a wider trend to launch whole-genome sequencing into mainstream healthcare. Whole genome sequencing – the examination of a person’s entire DNA sequence – is set to drastically alter the ways we approach health and disease. By providing detailed information about a person’s genetic constitution, genome sequencing has the potential to explain both current health problems as well as forecast future ones. This may be through identifying susceptibility to late-onset diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or revealing our “carrier status” for inheritable conditions – that is, conditions we unknowingly carry in our genes that we could pass on to our children.
Starting to become a reality

Genome sequencing appears set to eventually become a standard part of pregnancy planning. Private genetics companies already use the techniques to screen couples for large numbers of genetic conditions simultaneously, before the female partner even becomes pregnant. If the couple is found to be at risk of passing on a genetic condition, they are offered various interventions to prevent the birth of an affected child. It is anticipated that embryo genome editing techniques – techniques to remove disease-causing genetic mutations – might one day be among these interventions.

While genome sequencing on a mass scale is now largely feasible, important questions are yet to be answered about the ways they could, and should, be used. One group whose voices have been underrepresented in these debates are those of people already living with genetic disease.
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Scientists grow human embryo in lab for nearly two full weeks

Scientists grow human embryo in lab for nearly two full weeks | The future of medicine and health |
Studying the way a human embryo grows in its earliest stages can have a significant impact on in vitro fertilization methods as well as on our understanding of how diseases develop when life is just getting started. However, it's always been necessary to put lab-fertilized embryos back in the womb after seven days in order for them to attach and successfully develop into fetuses. Researchers at the University of Cambridge (UC) have now nearly doubled that time, allowing an embryo to grow in the lab for a full 13 days.

One of the major reasons why in vitro fertilization procedures can fail is that the lab-fertilized egg can fail to attach to the uterine wall when it is placed back inside the womb. Exactly why this occurs has been hard to understand because of the limit on how long embryos could be allowed to develop outside the body while remaining viable. With the new procedure allowing the embryo to be studied for up to 13 days, the hope is that a greater understanding will emerge about how to improve the odds of successful implantation, which currently hover around 25 percent.
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Genomics: Craig Venter is fighting ageing with genome sequencing (Wired UK)

Genomics: Craig Venter is fighting ageing with genome sequencing (Wired UK) | The future of medicine and health |
Nine years ago, Craig Venter sequenced the first complete individual human genome - his own. Now, he's finally starting to decode what it means for his future.

In early 2006, Craig Venter received a worrying email concerning his genome. Amid the six billion letters-long sequence of the A, T, C and G base pairs that constitute the vocabulary of DNA, geneticists at his private research institute had discovered a single, errant "C". This mutation, called APOE 4, marked him for increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and a tripled likelihood of Alzheimer's. The higher cardiovascular risk came as little surprise for someone with a family history of early heart-attack deaths. But the Alzheimer's was unexpected.

In one sense, few people could have been better prepared. In addition to having an entire institute's worth of geneticists on call, Venter is an undisputed pioneer in the field after leading his former company, Celera Genomics, in a fierce competition with the publicly funded Human Genome Project to produce the first complete human genome sequence. On June 26, 2000, in an uneasy truce that involved the intervention of then president Bill Clinton, the race was called as a tie.
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AI doctors will become 'as ubiquitous as stethoscopes' (Wired UK)

AI doctors will become 'as ubiquitous as stethoscopes' (Wired UK) | The future of medicine and health |
One of the biggest problems facing doctors isn't patients' injuries or illnesses – it's the sheer quantity data. Most will spend more time going over medical records than actually dealing with their patients.

It's a problem that "AI doctors" could help address, with supercomputers processing information far faster and more efficiently. The problem, IBM's Kyu Rhee tells the crowd at WIRED Health, is trust.

"Studies have shown that if a doctor wears a stethoscope, you trust him or her more. But in 1816, Dr René Laennec, a French physician, was examining his patient, trying to listen to her heart sounds with his ears," said Rhee. "He took 40 pieces of paper, rolled it up, and created the first stethoscope."

Looking to the future, Rhee sees a "cognitive system" such as IBM's Watson supercomputer having a similar role to play in human healthcare. Such systems, he said, will become as ubiquitous as the humble stethoscope.

Rhee, who was a physician earlier in his career, recalls struggling with the sheer volume of data involved in treating patients. Worse, the data was presented, at the time, on reams of paper and charts. Throw in new materials and understanding generated by medical journals and it soon becomes a mountain of information that can hinder, rather than help.
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Can chocolate every day protect your heart? - Futurity

Can chocolate every day protect your heart? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
Including a small amount of chocolate in your daily diet might help prevent diabetes and insulin resistance—and, as a result, protect the heart, too.

Researchers looked at data of 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study, taking into account lifestyle and dietary factors, including consumption of tea and coffee. Both drinks can be high in polyphenol, the substance which may provide chocolate with its beneficial effects.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, show that people who ate 100 grams of chocolate a day—basically one bar—had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease.

“Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health,” says Saverio Stranges, visiting academic at the University of Warwick Medical School.
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Could this brain circuit curb binge drinking? - Futurity

Could this brain circuit curb binge drinking? - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
A circuit between two brain regions appears to play a big role in binge drinking. New research with mice suggests manipulating the circuit could be a target for treatment.

The two brain areas—the extended amygdala and the ventral tegmental area—have been implicated in alcohol binge drinking in the past. However, this is the first time that the two areas have been identified as a functional circuit, connected by long projection neurons that produce a substance called corticotropin releasing factor, or CRF for short.

“The puzzle is starting to come together, and is telling us more than we ever knew about before,” says Todd Thiele of UNC-Chapel Hill, whose work appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry. “We now know that two brain regions that modulate stress and reward are part of a functional circuit that controls binge drinking and adds to the idea that manipulating the CRF system is an avenue for treating it.”

The extended amygdala has long been known to respond to psychological stress and anxiety. The ventral tegmental area responds to the rewarding properties of natural reinforcers, such as food, but also to drugs and alcohol.
[Booze makes these neurons crave more booze]

Thiele and colleagues found that alcohol, a physiological stressor, activates the CRF neurons in the extended amygdala, which directly act on the ventral tegmental area. These observations in mice suggest that when someone drinks alcohol, CRF neurons become active in the extended amygdala and act on the ventral tegmental area to promote continued and excessive drinking, culminating in a binge.

Thiele says the findings could shed light on future pharmacological treatments to curb binge drinking and may help prevent the transition to alcohol dependence.
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A DNA Sequencer in Every Pocket

A DNA Sequencer in Every Pocket | The future of medicine and health |
Aboard the International Space Station, six people are currently orbiting the planet at 17,000 miles per hour, taking in fifteen sunrises and sunsets every day. The view is unbeatable; the floating sensation, sublime.

But good luck to them if they get sick.

There’s nothing on board the ISS that can definitively diagnose a disease, or identify the microbes behind it. Instead, sick astronauts have to settle for describing their symptoms to medical staff on the ground. They have no way of knowing for sure if their disease is bacterial, viral, or something else, or if raiding the station’s finite supply of antibiotics would do them any good.

If an astronaut could decipher the full genetic code of whatever’s plaguing her, she could identify the offending bug and work out if it’s vulnerable to any drugs. But until recently, this scenario would have been laughably impractical. Sequencers were all the size and weight of microwaves and fridges. They’d be impossible to cart aboard a space station, and probably wouldn’t have survived the trip.

Thanks to a British company called Oxford Nanopore Technologies, that’s no longer true.

In the spring of 2014, the company released a USB-powered sequencer called the MinION (pronounced “min-eye-on” not “min-ee-un,” and neither yellow nor cute). Four inches long, one inch wide, and 87 grams in weight, it’s smaller than most chocolate bars and smartphones. Earlier this year, I clutched one in my hand, with room for several more. One scientist describes it as “the DNA sequencer you can forget in your jacket pocket, which I’ve done once.”
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Gene linked to youthful looks has been discovered, scientists claim

Gene linked to youthful looks has been discovered, scientists claim | The future of medicine and health |
Those in search of the fountain of youth should not hang up their boots, but in a laboratory in the Netherlands lies what may be the answer to a more realistic mystery: why some people look younger than others of the same age.

In a study published today, scientists in Rotterdam claim for the first time to have found a gene that specifically affects how old people look. The gene came to light when researchers noticed that people who carried mutations in the gene appeared, on average, two years older than they were.

The work, if verified, could help scientists unpick at the molecular level how people’s faces change with time, and ultimately develop ways to slow down the most visible effects of ageing.

“This is the first gene we have found for perceived age, and this single gene has an effect of two years,” said Manfred Kayser, professor of forensic molecular biology at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. “We know there are others out there. We are just at the beginning.”

Scientists have long known that people appear to age at different rates, and that genes and lifestyle are both involved. Smoking and too much UV from sunlight speed up skin ageing, but the genetics at work in looking old - or young - have so far proved elusive.
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Norovirus sickens almost 700 million people a year - Futurity

Norovirus sickens almost 700 million people a year - Futurity | The future of medicine and health |
The news often mentions norovirus when it’s relatively contained to a cruise ship or college campus, but it actually sickens nearly 700 million people a year.

The illness causes roughly $4.2 billion in health care costs and $60.3 billion in societal costs, new research concludes.

The findings, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, are believed to be the first to look at the global economic burden of norovirus, which is common in both wealthy and poor nations. The study suggests that much more attention is needed to combat a disease that kills approximately 219,000 a year around the world, the researchers say.

“You only seem to hear about it when people get sick on a cruise ship or at a restaurant, but norovirus is everywhere,” says study leader Sarah M. Bartsch, a research associate at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you’re in a wealthy country or a poorer one or if you’ve had it before—you can get it again,” Bartsch says. “And it is really unpleasant. But if we don’t focus on norovirus and teach people how to prevent it, little headway will be made to combat it.”
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Final piece of type 1 diabetes puzzle solved - BBC News

Final piece of type 1 diabetes puzzle solved - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
A complete picture of the areas that the immune system attacks to cause type 1 diabetes has finally been revealed by scientists.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes, discovered the fifth and final critical target at which the immune system errantly takes aim.

The team at the University of Lincoln say the findings could help develop new ways to prevent and treat the disease.

Diabetes UK said the findings were "impressive".

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells that make insulin - the hormone needed to keep blood sugar levels under control.

Studies looking at the unique antibodies made by patients with type 1 showed there were five key targets that the immune system attacked.

But working out exactly what they were has been like identifying someone from their silhouette.

Studies long ago discovered some of the targets, but the final one has proved elusive for two decades.

Dr Michael Christie, who led the research at the University of Lincoln, told the BBC: "With this new discovery, we have now finished identifying what the immune system is targeting - we have the complete picture."
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Dandruff? Soon you'll be reaching for the scalp yoghurt

Dandruff? Soon you'll be reaching for the scalp yoghurt | The future of medicine and health |
The next time dandruff dots your shoulders, you might want to reach for yogurt, not shampoo. The latest study into scaly scalps has found that nurturing particular bacteria on the skin could keep the white flakes at bay.

Researchers in Shanghai took on the dandruff problem with an unprecedented investigation into flaky scalps and the ecosystem of microbes that set up home on the human head, feeding on the lavish menu of dead skin and oily secretions called sebum.

Menghui Zhang at Shanghai Jiao Tong University invited 59 people aged 18 to 60 years old into the lab and gathered dandruff from eight different areas on their heads. All had washed their hair two days before turning up at the centre.

Zhang separated the volunteers into “healthy” and dandruff groups, depending on the amount of visible skin flakes in their hair. He then looked to see how the populations of scalp bacteria and fungi differed between the two groups, and with individual’s sex, age and physiology.

The researchers found that sebum secretions rose through the teenage years, peaked at 15 to 35 years old, and then declined as people got older. Meanwhile, dandruff became worse as people aged, with the over 40s having more severe dandruff than the younger participants. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the authors note: “Sebum is an important food source for the growth of fungi and bacteria.”
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Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Here

Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Here | The future of medicine and health |
A treatment now pending approval in Europe will be the first commercial gene therapy to provide an outright cure for a deadly disease.

The treatment is a landmark for gene-replacement technology, an idea that’s struggled for three decades to prove itself safe and practical.

Called Strimvelis, and owned by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the treatment is for severe combined immune deficiency, a rare disease that leaves newborns with almost no defense against viruses, bacteria, or fungi and is sometimes called “bubble boy” disease after an American child whose short life inside a protective plastic shield was described in a 1976 movie.

The treatment is different from any that’s come before because it appears to be an outright cure carried out through a genetic repair. The therapy was tested on 18 children, the first of them 15 years ago. All are still alive.

“I would be hesitant to call it a cure, although there’s no reason to think it won’t last,” says Sven Kili, the executive who heads gene-therapy development at GSK.
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Robo-Surgeon Successfully Sews Pig Intestine

Robo-Surgeon Successfully Sews Pig Intestine | The future of medicine and health |
Robots are a growing presence in operating rooms throughout the U.S. as surgeons embrace the technology to help them remove damaged organs or cancerous tissue. These systems have improved greatly in recent years but still need hands-on surgeons to guide their instruments and make critical decisions. Turning a robot loose on its own to cut and sew delicate tissue inside a human body would be a massively complex undertaking requiring advanced imaging, sensor and artificial intelligence technologies—not to mention a lot more acceptance from the medical community and federal regulators.

But those hurdles have not stopped scientists at Children’s National Medical Center’s (CNMC) Sheikh Zayed Institute from developing a robotic system that has successfully sutured and reconnected portions of pig intestine in a living animal with little or no human intervention, according to a report in the May 4 Science Translational Medicine.
Maria E Araiza-Gutiérrez's curator insight, May 12, 1:06 PM
robots are becoming ubiquitous

Robots are becoming ubiquitous!!
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Scientists make 'second skin' to hide wrinkles - BBC News

Scientists make 'second skin' to hide wrinkles - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
Scientists claim to have developed an invisible elastic film that can be applied to the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and eye bags.

Once applied, the formula dries to form a film that "mimics the properties of youthful skin", Nature Materials reports after a series of small trials.

At the moment it is being explored as a commercial cosmetic product.

But the US scientists say their "second skin" might eventually be used to deliver medicines and sun protection.
Second skin

The team from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have tested their prototype product on a handful of volunteers, applying the formula to their under-eye bags, forearms and legs.

The polysiloxane polymer was m
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Kidney-on-a-chip may save lives

Kidney-on-a-chip may save lives | The future of medicine and health |
Because they filter our blood, our kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage from toxins in our bloodstream. That's why kidney failure can occur when people are given too high a dosage of certain medications. So, how do drug developers know how much is safe? Typically, it's through animal testing, although University of Michigan researchers have now developed something that could be more accurate – a "kidney-on-a-chip."

One of the problems with using lab animals is that they tend to process medication at different rates than humans, leaving developers to extrapolate the results of tests. By contrast, the kidney-on-a-chip is said to much more closely mimic the rate at which human kidneys take up drugs in the bloodstream.

Additionally, while every animal is slightly different, the chip allows for parameters to be strictly regulated over a series of tests.

The glass slide-type device contains live cultured human kidney cells within a permeable polyester membrane, sandwiched between top and bottom compartments. Solutions containing different concentrations of medications are introduced to the top compartment, and are guided by microfluidic channels to flow through the membrane and kidney cells, before reaching the bottom. The cells are then examined under a microscope, to see how they fared.
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Fat Labradors give clues to obesity epidemic - BBC News

Fat Labradors give clues to obesity epidemic - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
The Labrador retriever, known as one of the greediest breeds of dog, is hard-wired to overeat, research suggests.

The dog is more likely to become obese than other breeds partly because of its genes, scientists at Cambridge University say.

The gene affected is thought to be important in controlling how the brain recognises hunger and the feeling of being full after eating.

The research could help in the understanding of human obesity.

"About a quarter of pet Labradors carry this gene [difference]," lead researcher Dr Eleanor Raffan told the BBC.

"Although obesity is the consequence of eating more than you need and more than you burn off in exercise, actually there's some real hard-wired biology behind our drive to eat," she added.
Lifestyle factors

Canine obesity mirrors the human obesity epidemic, with lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise and high-calorie food both implicated - as well as genetics.

As many as two in three dogs (34-59%) in rich countries are now overweight.

The Labrador has the highest levels of obesity and has been shown to be more obsessed with food than other breeds.
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Mapping more genomes will create a healthcare 'big data revolution' (Wired UK)

Mapping more genomes will create a healthcare 'big data revolution' (Wired UK) | The future of medicine and health |
There are around 100 trillion cells in the human body, each one containing three billion base pairs of DNA. If stretched in a line, they would cover the distance from Earth to the Moon more than 8,000 times. The point, according to Beijing Genomics CEO Ye Yin, is that there's a huge amount of information locked in each of us – and decoding it all could unlock big secrets.

BGI Genomics is one of the world's leading genomics companies. Among its successes are decoding the Sars virus and creating the first detection kit; sequencing the first ancient human's genome; and serving as a key sequencing centre in the 1000 Genomes Project.

Despite the information density of the human genome, the actual genetic diversity between species isn't that wide. Speaking at WIRED Health, Yin pointed out that we share 63 per cent of our genes with fish and up to 96 per cent with chimpanzees. Even between two humans, the individual genetic variance is only around 0.5 per cent, yet it can result in pronounced differences.
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Antimatter changed physics, and the discovery of antimemories could revolutionise neuroscience

Antimatter changed physics, and the discovery of antimemories could revolutionise neuroscience | The future of medicine and health |
One of the most intriguing physics discoveries of the last century was the existence of antimatter, material that exists as the “mirror image” of subatomic particles of matter, such as electrons, protons and quarks, but with the opposite charge. Antimatter deepened our understanding of our universe and the laws of physics, and now the same idea is being proposed to explain something equally mysterious: memory.

When memories are created and recalled, new and stronger electrical connections are created between neurons in the brain. The memory is represented by this new association between neurons. But a new theory, backed by animal research and mathematical models, suggests that at the same time that a memory is created, an “antimemory” is also spawned – that is, connections between neurons are made that provide the exact opposite pattern of electrical activity to those forming the original memory. Scientists believe that this helps maintain the balance of electrical activity in the brain.

The growth of stronger connections between neurons, known as an increase in excitation, is part of the normal process of learning. Like the excitement that we feel emotionally, a little is a good thing. However, also like emotional excitement, too much of it can cause problems.

In fact, the levels of electrical activity in the brain are finely and delicately balanced. Any excessive excitation in the brain disrupts this balance. In fact, electrical imbalance is thought to underlie some of the cognitive problems associated with psychiatric and psychological conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

In trying to understand the effects of imbalance, scientists reached the conclusion that there must be a second process in learning that acts to rebalance the excitation caused by the new memory and keep the whole system in check. The theory is that, just as we have matter and antimatter, so there must be an antimemory for every memory. This precise mirroring of the excitation of the new memory with its inhibitory antimemory prevents a runaway storm of brain activity, ensuring that the system stays in balance. While the memory is still present, the activity it caused has been subdued. In this way, antimemories work to silence the original memory without erasing it.
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Mindfulness can control depression as well as drugs, study shows

Mindfulness can control depression as well as drugs, study shows | The future of medicine and health |
Mindfulness can control depression as well as mood-boosting drugs, the biggest ever review of the practice has shown.

A meta-analysis into the effectiveness of the treatment by Oxford University found that the therapy prevented people relapsing as well as anti-depressants.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT) claims to combine ‘ancient wisdom with 21st century science’. Through meditation techniques, patients are encouraged to accept their negative thoughts and feelings without allowing them to alter their emotional state or send them into a spiral of despair.

Patients who practiced mindfulness therapy were 23 per cent less likely to become depressed again within five months even if they stopped taking their medication, compared to those who continued the pills. However the researchers say it is too early to say that the therapy is better than drugs.

Nevertheless the researchers claim it offers an alternative for the millions of people who suffer recurrent depression.
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Eating too much red meat ‘can age the body’, researchers claim

Eating too much red meat ‘can age the body’, researchers claim | The future of medicine and health |
Eating too much red meat and not enough fruit and vegetables could increase the body’s “biological age” and contribute to health problems, according to researchers.

Scientists found that a moderate increase in levels of serum phosphate in the body caused by red meat consumption, combined with a poor overall diet, increases your biological age – your “miles on the clock” – in contrast to your chronological or actual age.

The project, led by a team at the University of Glasgow, analysed people from the most deprived to the least deprived areas covered by NHS Greater Glasgow.

The results suggested accelerated biological ageing and diet-related phosphate levels among the most deprived males were directly related to their frequency of red meat consumption. This was linked to reduced kidney function and chronic kidney disease.

High phosphate levels have previously been linked to higher mortality risk, premature vascular ageing and kidney disease.
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Gene therapy reverses sight loss and is long-lasting - BBC News

Gene therapy reverses sight loss and is long-lasting - BBC News | The future of medicine and health |
A genetic therapy has improved the vision of patients who would otherwise have gone blind.

A clinical study by British scientists has shown that the improvement is long-lasting and so the therapy is suitable to be offered as a treatment.

The researchers will apply for approval to begin trials to treat more common forms of blindness next year.

The therapy involve injecting working copy of the gene into the back of the eyes to help cells regenerate.

The results of the therapy, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have been tried out on 14 patients in the UK and 18 in the US, Canada and Germany over the past four and a half years.

A team at Oxford University is treating a rare disorder called choroideremia. The disorder affects young men whose light-detecting cells in the backs of their eyes are dying because they have inherited a faulty gene.

Until now, there has been no treatment and they gradually become blind.

The researchers found that not only does the treatment halt the disease, it revives some of the dying cells and improves the patient's vision, in some cases markedly.
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Is it all in the brain? An inclusive approach to mental health | OUPblog

Is it all in the brain? An inclusive approach to mental health | OUPblog | The future of medicine and health |
For many years, the prevailing view among both cognitive scientists and philosophers has been that the brain is sufficient for cognition, and that once we discover its secrets, we will be able to unravel the mysteries of the mind. Recently however, a growing number of thinkers have begun to challenge this prevailing view that mentality is a purely neural phenomenon. They emphasize, instead, that we are conscious in and through our living bodies. Mentality is not something that happens passively within our brains, but something that we do through dynamic bodily engagement with our surroundings. This shift in perspective has incredibly important implications for the way we treat mental health – and schizophrenia in particular.

In much of the Western world, and particularly in the United States, drugs are a primary mode of treatment for psychological disorders. This reflects the common assumption that mental illness results from faulty brain chemistry. Although it would be difficult to deny that medication can play an important role in treatment, this drug-based approach faces three major limitations:

It is doubtful whether disorders such as schizophrenia are caused by anything neurological (in the straightforward way that heart attacks are caused by arterial blockage). Indeed, many mental, emotional, and behavioural problems do not have clear-cut genetic or chemical causes, but instead result partly from difficult human experiences, stressful events, or other problems in their personal life. When minds “go wrong” it is not simply a matter of mechanical breakdown, and “fixing” neural wiring will not be sufficient to address the underlying causes of disorder.

There is evidence that antipsychotic medications are not sufficiently effective in managing the debilitating symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations. Many patients on medication continue to experience psychotic symptoms throughout their lifetimes. In addition, there is a worry that anti-psychotic drugs may cause negative side effects, such as apathy, muscle stiffness, weight gain, and tremors.

By focusing on just one organ of the body (i.e. the brain), drug-centred approaches overlook the role of bodily processes more broadly construed. Once we acknowledge that consciousness and cognition are fully embodied, this pushes us to move beyond narrowly defined, brain-based methods and to seek treatments that transform a subject’s overall neurobiological dynamics.
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