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Recent media reports have covered research announced ahead of the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in April which suggested that milk during pregnancy may lower a baby’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life.
The theory from the researchers in Boston, announced in an AAN press release, was based on a survey of American mothers.
It was claimed that MS risk was lower among women born to mothers with high milk or dietary vitamin D intake in pregnancy.
Unfortunately UK media reports focused on the milk link ; however it is in fact the case that there are only trace elements of vitamin D in milk consumed in this country.
Unlike America, most of Britain’s milk is not fortified with vitamin D and so whatever quantity of milk is ingested, vitamin D levels in the body are likely to remain unaffected.
While it may be true that vitamin D has previously been shown to potentially play a role in MS, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet including oily fish and exposing skin to safe levels of sunshine are the best ways to increase levels of vitamin D.
Brain fitness has basic principles: variety and curiosity. When anything you do becomes second nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it’s time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain. Curiosity about the world around you, how it works and how you can understand it will keep your brain working fast and efficiently. Use the ideas below to help attain your quest for mental fitness.
1. Play Games
Brain fitness programs and games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Suduko, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day — spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.
Daily meditation is perhaps the single greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain fitness.
3. Eat for Your Brain
Your brain needs you to eat healthy fats. Focus on fish oils from wild salmon, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flax seed and olive oil. Eat more of these foods and less saturated fats. Eliminate transfats completely from your diet.
4. Tell Good Stories
Stories are a way that we solidify memories, interpret events and share moments. Practice telling your stories, both new and old, so that they are interesting, compelling and fun. Some basic storytelling techniques will go a long way in keeping people’s interest both in you and in what you have to say.
5. Turn Off Your Television
The average person watches more than 4 hours of television everyday. Television can stand in the way of relationships, life and more. Turn off your TV and spend more time living and exercising your mind and body.
6. Exercise Your Body To Exercise Your Brain
Physical exercise is great brain exercise too. By moving your body, your brain has to learn new muscle skills, estimate distance and practice balance. Choose a variety of exercises to challenge your brain.
7. Read Something Different
Books are portable, free from libraries and filled with infinite interesting characters, information and facts. Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books. Not only will your brain get a workout by imagining different time periods, cultures and peoples, you will also have interesting stories to tell about your reading, what it makes you think of and the connections you draw between modern life and the words.
8. Learn a New Skill
Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an airplane out of toothpicks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.
9. Make Simple Changes
We love our routines. We have hobbies and pastimes that we could do for hours on end. But the more something is ‘second nature,’ the less our brains have to work to do it. To really help your brain stay young, challenge it. Change routes to the grocery store, use your opposite hand to open doors and eat dessert first. All this will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.
10. Train Your Brain
Brain training is becoming a trend. There are formal courses, websites and books with programs on how to train your brain to work better and faster. There is some research behind these programs, but the basic principles are memory, visualization and reasoning. Work on these three concepts everyday and your brain will be ready for anything.
SAN DIEGO – A form of Chinese martial arts called Tai Chi may prove an effective treatment for patients who suffer from dizziness and balance disorders, also known as vestibular disorders.
In a study presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting and OTO EXPO in San Diego, a team of researchers evaluated the utility of Tai Chi in managing patients with vestibular symptoms who have failed conventional vestibular therapy.
It could include individualized physical therapy or different sets of physical maneuvers that a doctor performs on a patient.
As part of the study, the researchers conducted a survey from April 2008 to March 2009 at an outpatient rehabilitation program, utilizing the activities-specific balance confidence scale and dynamic gait index survey, both prior to therapy and at the conclusion of an eight-week course.
A total of 21 patients (18 females, 3 males) completed the study to date.
According to the researchers, patients reported subjective improvements in their vestibular symptoms.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the technique might be effective because Tai Chi promotes coordination through relaxation, rather than muscular coordination.
CHICAGO – Scientists have come up with a new way to watch bacteria as they swim, which is expected to eventually help trap Escherichia coli bacteria and modify the microbes’ environment without hindering the way they move.
The new approach uses optical traps, microfluidic chambers and fluorescence to get an improved picture of how E. coli get around.
YannChemla, a professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, says that the microfluidic chambers provide a controlled environment in which the bacteria swim, and allow them to introduce specific stimuli – such as chemical attractants – to see if the microbes change direction in response to that stimulus.
Chemla, who jointly led the study with physics professor IdoGolding, further says that optical traps use lasers to confine individual cells without impeding their rotation or the movement of their flagella.
The researcher calls the optical traps “bacterial treadmills”.
According to the researchers, movement of the bacterial cell alters the light from the laser, and, thereby, help track its behaviour.
Fluorescent markers enhance visualization of the bacteria and their flagella under a microscope, say the researchers.
While earlier studies have been unable to follow individual bacterial cells moving in three dimensions for more than about 30 seconds, the new approach allows the researchers to track a single bacterium as it swims for up to an hour, and that is why it may offer a new look at questions that so far have been unanswerable.
“For example, some people have asked whether E. coli has a nose. Does it have a front and back?” Nature magazine quoted Golding as saying.
He and his colleagues have observed that while the bacterium can travel in either direction, most E.coli have “a pronounced preference” for one over the other.
The researchers found that after most tumbles, a bacterium usually continued swimming in the same general direction, but that about one in six tumbles caused it to change direction completely.
They were also able to quantify other features of bacterial swimming, such as changes in velocity and the time spent running and tumbling.
They hope that their novel method will allow scientists to address many more questions about this model organism.
“That’s the typical way biology moves forward. You develop a new measurement capability and then you can use that to go back and look at fundamental questions that people had been looking at but had no way of answering,” Golding said.
A research article describing the new technique has been published in the journal Nature Methods.
She seemed so in charge of her balanced life. So I asked my student, this longtime, top producer, exactly how she managed to juggle so much and so well. Her response was the same I’ve heard repeatedly from achievers over the years, “I learned how to really concentrate.” When the vision is clear, braking down specific goals or tasks becomes easier. The ability to concentrate on single issues at a time becomes do-able and the success process becomes easier to control and duplicate.
The basic theme you hear from pro athletes at the peak of their game is the same you hear from great parents, teachers, students, scientists, realtors, doctors, communicators etc. They share a view that it is never the glitches, setbacks, disappointments that hold a person back, but rather the message the person assigns to those events or to any distractions. Stuff happens. How we choose to view and respond to these happenings determines whether we move away from or toward our personal power.
Many don’t feel they run their life. They feel their life runs them. They use others’ actions and opinions as well as their own experiences as excuses for what they choose to do. It’s like using an out-of-town guest as an excuse to do no work, as if the guest is pointing a gun and saying, “Take care of me every moment or I’ll shoot.” Or, we see external changes over which we have no control, like an interest rate change, and suddenly some find the way they sleep, communicate, project the future, view their colleagues or even their family, changes too. We’ve all been cut off in traffic. The driver who did the cutting, whether intentional or inadvertent, drives off focused on his destination. But how often have we, the ones cut off, invited that long gone, other driver to live, rent-free in our head? Learning to “let go” is not a just some random concept. Letting gois a way of coping with our distractions and disappointments in a healthy, productive way.
Letting go is about focusing elsewhere, by conscious choice. We don’t let go by saying, “I don’t want to think about it.” That’s like highlighting with a yellow marker the very thought we want to avoid. Imagine a teacher directing, “OK class… don’t think of a purple elephant…. large orange ears flapping in the breeze.” What did you see.. even if you tried to “let go” of it? Yet, there is a way to let go and it’s simple. We simply turn our attention to something else and keep placing our mind exactly where we want it to be until the mind gets the message. The mind learns by our repetition that we’re serious and in control of the DIRECTION of our attention. Imagine allowing all distractions and challenges to do only one thing: to serve as a reminder to focus and concentrate on those ideas and things about which we CAN do something, and towards those things that have value for own highest, most exciting, magnificent, “worth-it” goals.
And the great news is – this chosen FOCUS and CONCENTRATION is a way of responding and behaving that can be practiced and learned.
Here are a few simple tools to “get ‘er done:”
1. DO the SESSIONS. One way to establish excellence in focus and concentration is to practice the relaxation and self-hypnosis sessions I teach in seminars.
When you relax your mind (relaxing your body is great, but relaxing your mind is the key to excellence), many distractions may pull at you. As you keep bringing your mind back to your chosen focus (positive affirmations, imagery), like a puppy gets the message when you gently and consistently repeat, your mind gets the message and learns. Do these training sessions with yourself and just like muscles in the body, your mind gets stronger and more disciplined. Practice directing your mind to those acts and abilities you want, for example reading fast with perfect comprehension, giving clear presentations that are on target, being inspired by rejection or intimidating tactics of others, prospecting with confidence, experiencing memory that accesses with ease the images and details that serve, playing fluid, powerful, golf, being relaxed and confident taking tests, etc. Being ”present” or ”in the moment” are not just phrases. Like letting go, they are skills which can be learned and perfected for a better way of performing.
2. ASK YOURSELF the MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION. Another way of practicing the development of focus and concentration is to, throughout the day, ask yourself “Is what I am doing the most beneficial thing I could be doing, right NOW?”
Write this question on a 3×5 card and carry it with you for a couple of weeks to ingrain the sense of control you really do have over your time and energy. Don’t wait to be moved by this little reminder. If the answer is “Yes,” continue doing what you’re doing. If the answer is “No,” pay attention and take action that moves you NOW to your best use of your focused attention and resources of time, energy. The beginning of any process of change may be erratic and uncomfortable. It is also totally worthwhile. Look at the people who you think “have it together” and you may not necessarily find the most gifted or brilliant, but you will likely find those who choose to “shift gears” smoothly and be totally present. Copy success. Copy their best attributes.
3. CELEBRATE VICTORIES. Think about it: Confidence in this area of developing focus, like confidence about anything else doesn’t necessarily come from belief or faith, it comes from creating victories which we acknowledge. Start from wherever you are and show yourself what you CAN do. When you do something well, avoid the trap of thinking “It’s no big deal.” Acknowledge successes, little or giant, as of equal value relative to your ability to have success. What’s small to you may be huge to someone else.. and vice versa. Celebration of each success, without judgment of its size, continues to move us forward while creating a new habit. This is using our power and strengthening the habit of concentration.
The practice of self hypnosis will greatly facilitate your ability to focus. One of the definitions of self hypnosis is Heightened Awareness. If you commit yourself to practice a couple of sessions each day, within two to three weeks you will find some very interesting shifts in concentration and consciousness take place. Learn how, do it, celebrate your successes, benefit. Start NOW.
Please take a look at my CDs that can help you focus in your business and personal life and prepare you to have the best year ever. The choice is always there and the choice is always yours.
TRENTON – Scientists from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey have identified a protein that can repair brain damage in Alzheimer’s patients.
They said that a protein called vimentin normally appears twice in a lifetime – when neurons in the brain are forming during the first years of life and, years later when the brain’s neurons are under siege from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.
“Vimentin is expressed by neurons in regions of the brain where there is Alzheimer’s damage but not in undamaged areas of the brain,” said DrRobertNagele, a professor at UMDNJ and the study’s corresponding author.
“When the patient shows up at the doctor’s office with symptoms of cognitive impairment, the neurons have reached the point where they can no longer keep pace with the ever-increasing damage caused by Alzheimer’s,” he added.
While explaining the study results, Nagele likened neurons to a tree with long strands called dendrites branching off from the main part of the cell.
The dendrite branches are covered with 10,000 tiny “leaves” called synapses that allow neurons to communicate with each other. Vimentin is an essential protein for building the dendrite branches that support the synapses.
“A hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid deposits that gradually destroy the synapses and cause the collapse of dendrite branches,” he said.
“When the dendrites and synapses degenerate, the neuron releases vimentin in an attempt to re-grow the dendrite tree branches and synapses. It’s a rerun of the embryonic program that allowed the brain to develop in the early years of life,” Nagele added.
The researchers also reported some initial findings that indicated a similar damage response mechanism takes place following traumatic brain injury, suggesting the possibility that similar therapeutic agents could be developed to enhance repair both for sudden brain trauma and for progressive neurodegenerative diseases.
The findings are published in journal Brain Research.
SYDNEY – The build-up of iron in a cell centre may lead to debilitating diseases which can cause brain and cardiac disorders, a study has revealed.
The accumulation of iron in mitochondria, which is the centre for cell respiration and energy production, is toxic. The iron can substantially damage the cell and cause death.
Using a mouse model, University of Sydney (U-S) researchers found that the iron loading was caused by its increased iron uptake and decreased release due to reduced iron utilization in two major mitochondrial pathways.
“The terrible part is that these children (with high iron accumulation in cells) grow up knowing the joys of self-sufficiency, being able to walk and function normally before they are struck down,” said DesRichardson.
MichaelHuang, study co-author noted: “It’s great to work on such an intractable disease and by unveiling its underlying nuts and bolts to get results that can potentially help lots of people.”
The study appeared in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
VANCOUVER – Depression can decrease a cancer patient’s chances of survival, a new research suggests.
Published in the November 15, 2009 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the finding of an analysis highlights the need for systematic screening of psychological distress and subsequent treatments.
In order to determine the effects of depression on cancer patients’ disease progression and survival, graduate student Jillian Satin, MA, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and her colleagues analyzed all of the studies to date they could identify related to the topic.
The researchers found 26 studies with a total of 9417 patients that examined the effects of depression on patients’ cancer progression and survival.
“We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not,” said Satin.
In the combined studies, the death rates were up to 25 percent higher in patients experiencing depressive symptoms and 39 percent higher in patients diagnosed with major or minor depression.
The increased risks remained even after considering patients’ other clinical characteristics that might affect survival, indicating that depression may actually play a part in shortening survival.
However, the authors say additional research must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached. The authors add that their analysis combined results across different tumor types, so future studies should look at the effects of depression on different kinds of cancer.
The investigators note that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small, so patients should not feel that they must maintain a positive attitude to beat their disease.
Nevertheless, the study indicates that it is important for physicians to regularly screen cancer patients for depression and to provide appropriate treatments.
GENEVA – Prostate cancer patients who belong to low socio-economic status are more likely to die than patients with higher incomes, according to a new study from Swiss researchers.
The study’s findings indicate that poor prostate cancer patients receive worse care than their wealthier counterparts.
The researchers wanted to know how disparities affected prostate cancer mortality in Switzerland, a country with an extremely well developed health care system and where healthcare costs, medical coverage, and life expectancy are among the highest in the world,
Dr. ElisabettaRapiti, of the University of Geneva, and her colleagues conducted a population-based study that included all residents of the region who were diagnosed with invasive prostate cancer between 1995 and 2005.
The analysis included 2,738 patients identified through the Geneva Cancer Registry.
The researchers found that as compared with patients of high socio-economic status, those of low socio-economic status were less likely to have their cancer detected by screening, had more advanced stages of cancer at diagnosis, and underwent fewer tests to characterize their cancer.
These patients were less likely to have their prostates removed and were more likely to be managed with watchful waiting, or careful monitoring.
Patients with low socio-economic status also had a 2-fold increased risk of dying from prostate cancer compared with patients of high socio-economic status.
“The increased mortality risk of patients of low socio-economic status is almost completely explained by delayed diagnosis, poor work-up, and less complete treatment, indicating inequitable use of the health care system,” said Rapiti.
The authors say lead time and length time biases linked to early detection through PSA screening may partially explain the survival advantage observed among high SES patients.
The study has been published in the latest issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
TUBINGEN – A German team of neurobiologists has found that rhesus macaques can engage in abstract mathematical reasoning using specific brain cells dedicated to the comprehension of math rules and relationships.
The finding could provide insight into the neurology behind human ability to comprehend much more complex mathematics, German scientists said.
“Even simple mathematical operations are highly abstract mental operations on quantities that are governed by overarching concepts and principles,” explained study co-author AndreasNieder, a professor in the department of animal physiology at the University of Tubingen’s Institute of Neurobiology. “Monkeys can adopt abstract mathematical rules, and they can switch between them.”
“That means they understand very fundamental, non-symbolic mathematical principles, such as ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’,” Neider added. His team traced this ability to neurons in the prefrontal cortex region of the primate brain — an area that appears to be devoted to encoding the basic rules of math.
Neider and co-author SylviaBongard reported their findings online Jan. 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To assess primate math skills and isolate the neurology behind them, the team trained two rhesus monkeys to assess when groups of various objects, such as dots, were either “greater than” or “less than” another grouping of the same object.
Having learned these two basic mathematical rules, the monkeys were then tracked as they worked levers to indicate which grouping was the larger or smaller of the two displayed.
During the course of 160 different trials, the authors also recorded neural activity among 484 randomly selected cells located in the monkey’s cognition center in the brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Neider and his team found that the monkeys were able to successfully execute the “greater than” and “less than” rules — and switch back and forth between the two — between 83 and 92 percent of the time.
What’s more, 20 percent of the monitored neurons appeared to be specifically tasked with facilitating this type of abstract math-rule comprehension. The cells did so independently, while other cells focused on the processing of sensory information, such as visual and/or or memory cues.
This isn’t the first indication that primates possess some degree of mathematical talent. Last year, Duke University researchers working with macaque monkeys found that the primates are capable of basic math despite their lack of language skills. And in 2007, researchers from Japan’s Kyoto University found that young chimpanzees actually out-performed human adults in tracking numbers and remembering sequencing.
And math proficiency may not be unique to primates.
“Number crunching is a widespread skill among animals,” Neider said. “So far, several mammalian and bird species have been shown to possess it, as well as salamanders, fish, and even bees. This ability has obvious survival advantages. In foraging, for instance, it is an advantage to choose the food source with more items compared to few. Also in social interactions, it pays to know the number of individuals in one’s own group as compared to an opponent party before deciding whether to flee or attack.”
Nevertheless, Neider noted that human mathematical cognition remains leaps and bounds ahead of that of other animals.
“In all animals,” he said, “set size is never represented in a precise way — exactly five objects — but always approximately, ‘about’ five items. Amongst other things, this sets us apart from all other animals. Guided by the development of language, we acquire a very precise understanding of numbers. We denote numbers symbolically, a skill beyond the scope of any animal.”
“With such mental tools at hand and sophisticated logical abilities, we structure and process numerical information in the most sophisticated ways,” Neider observed, “and with the most impressive results.”
“It’s simply a question of the much greater extent to which we, as humans, use abstract reasoning to maneuver in our environment, relative to other animals,” added Joe Verghese, associate professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
“So while the idea that monkeys can perhaps specifically engage in abstract mathematical reasoning is, I believe, something new, there have been many previous experiments that have shown that primates do engage in abstractions,” he added. “Which means that we are — humans and animals — probably all hardwired to do some kind of abstract reasoning. But it’s a question of the pecking order, of sophistication. The question then is, do primates consider what is life? What comes after death? Unfortunately, I don’t think there are experiments on that level yet.”
DETROIT – There is no reason why pregnant women at low risk for complications during delivery should be denied fluids and food during labor, a new Cochrane research review concludes.
“Women should be free to eat and drink in labour, or not, as they wish,” the authors of the review wrote in the Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.
Dr.JenniferMilosavljevic, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, who was not involved in the Cochrane Review, agrees that pregnant women should be allowed to eat and/or drink during labor.
“In my experience,” she told Reuters Health in an email, “most pregnant patients at HenryFord are placed on a clear liquid diet during labor which includes water, apple juice, cranberry juice, broth, and jello. If a patient is brought in for a prolonged induction of labor, she will typically be permitted to eat a regular diet and order anything off the menu in between different induction modalities.”
Milosavlievic has “not seen any adverse outcomes by allowing women the option of liquids and/or a regular diet in labor.”
Standard hospital policy for many decades has been to allow only tiny sips of water or ice chips for pregnant women in labor if they were thirsty. Why? It was feared, and some studies in the 1940s showed, that if a woman needed to undergo general anesthesia for a cesarean delivery, she might inhale regurgitated liquids or food particles that could lead to pneumonia and other lung damage.
But anesthesia practices have changed and improved since the 1940s, with more use of regional anesthesia and safer general anesthesia.
And recently, attitudes on food and drink during labor have begun to relax. Last September, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a “Committee Opinion” advising doctors that women with a normal, uncomplicated labor may drink modest amounts of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp, carbonated beverages, clear tea, black coffee, and sports drinks. They fell short of saying food was okay, however, advising that women should avoid fluids with solid particles, such as soup.
“As for the continued restriction on food, the reality is that eating is the last thing most women are going to want to do since nausea and vomiting during labor is quite common,” Dr.WilliamH.Barth, Jr., chair of ACOGs Committee on Obstetric Practice, noted in a written statement at the time.
But based on the evidence, Mandisa Singata of the East London Hospital Complex in East London, South Africa, an author on the new Cochrane Review, says “women should be able to make their own decisions about whether they want to eat or drink during labour, or not.”
Singata and colleagues systematically reviewed five studies involving more than 3100 pregnant that looked at the evidence for restricting food and drink in women who were considered unlikely to need anesthesia. One study looked at complete restriction versus giving women the freedom to eat and drink at will; two studies looked at water only versus giving women specific fluids and foods and two studies looked at water only versus giving women carbohydrate drinks.
The evidence showed no benefits or harms of restricting foods and fluids during labor in women at low risk of needing anesthesia.
Singata and colleagues acknowledge that many women may not feel like eating or drinking during labor. However, research has shown that some women find the food and drink restriction unpleasant. Poor nutritional balance may be also associated with longer and more painful labors. Drinking clear liquids in limited quantities has been found to bring comfort to women in labor and does not increase labor complications.
The researchers emphasize that they did not find any studies that assessed the risks of eating and drinking for women with a higher risk of needing anesthesia and so further research is need before specific recommendations can be made for this group.
Kids With Small Head Size at Risk of Neurologic Problems
WASHINGTON – Kids whose head size is smaller than that of 97 percent of children may be at an increased risk of neurologic and cognitive problems, and should be screened for such problems, according to a new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology.
Published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the guideline has been developed in full collaboration with the Child Neurology Society.
Microcephaly is the medical term used for the condition in which kids have small head sizes. In some cases, it is not present at birth, but develops by the time a child becomes two.
While microcephaly is not a disease, it is an important sign that may point to other conditions.
“The evidence suggests that children with microcephaly are more likely to have certain neurologic conditions, such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy, as well as mental retardation and eye and ear disorders,” said lead guideline author Dr. Stephen Ashwal, a child neurologist at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, California, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
“In fact, the evidence shows that children with microcephaly are at risk for developmental delay and learning disorders. For these reasons, it is necessary for doctors to recognize microcephaly and check the child for these associated problems, which often require special treatments. This is an important recommendation, as it allows doctors to provide more accurate advice and counseling to families who have a child with microcephaly,” he added.
The expert says that doctors may also consider screening for coexisting conditions, such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
“Forty percent of children with microcephaly also have epilepsy, 20 percent also have cerebral palsy, 50 percent also have mental retardation, and 20 to 50 percent also have eye and ear problems,” said Ashwal.
Brain scans like an MRI or CT scan as well as genetic testing may be useful in identifying the causes of microcephaly.
Ashwal says even if a small head size runs in families, it is still important to see a doctor due to the risk of other conditions.
Stressing the importance of telling the doctor about any family history of neurologic disease, Ashwal said: “It should be noted though, that some children with small head size have normal development and do not develop any related conditions or problems.”
LONDON – An organic variety of apples first grown more than 800 years ago could be the healthiest to eat, according to a new study.
Pendragon apple, which has been grown in England since the 12th century, contains higher levels of plant chemicals linked to health benefits – including reducing inflammation and lowering blood sugar – than other varieties, claim researchers.
In a test, the apple came top of 12 organic and three normally grown apples, beating rivals such as Golden Delicious, Royal Gala and Cox, reports The Telegraph.
“Of all the organic varieties, Pendragon was the best apple variety and contained seven of the eight kinds of healthy components at the highest levels,” said pharmacist MichaelWakeman, who led the study and presented his findings to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference in Manchester.
“In contrast, the non-organic apples consistently had low levels … in both the flesh and the peel,” said Wakeman, who works for Eden Healthcare Technologies in Leicestershire. (ANI)
Healthy Older Brains Not Smaller than Younger Ones
MAASTRICHT – The belief that healthy older brains are substantially smaller than younger brains has been deemed incorrect by Dutch researchers.
The authors suggest that previous findings may have overestimated atrophy and underestimated normal size for the older brain.
The new study tested participants in Holland’s long-term Maastricht Aging Study who were free of neurological problems such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or stroke.
Once participants were deemed otherwise healthy, they took neuropsychological tests, including a screening test for dementia, at baseline and every three years afterward for nine years.
MRI scans were used to measure seven different parts of the brain, including the memory-laden hippocampus, the areas around it, and the frontal and cingulate areas of the cognitively critical cortex.
The participants were later divided into two groups: one group with 35 cognitively healthy people who stayed free of dementia (average starting age 69.1 years), and the other group with 30 people who showed substantial cognitive decline but were still dementia-free (average starting age 69.2 years).
In contrast to the 35 people who stayed healthy, the 30 people who declined cognitively over study-period showed a significant effect for age in the hippocampus and parahippocampal areas, and in the frontal and cingulate cortices.
In short, among the people whose cognition got worse, older participants had smaller brain areas than younger participants.
Thus, the seeming age-related atrophy in gray matter more likely reflected pathological changes in the brain that underlie significant cognitive decline than aging itself, wrote the authors.
As long as people stay cognitively healthy, the researchers believe that the gray matter of areas supporting cognition might not shrink much at all.
If future longitudinal studies find similar results, our conception of ‘normal’ brain aging may become more optimistic,” said lead author SaartjeBurgmans, who is due to receive her PhD later this year.
New Brain Pathway for Regulating Weight, Bone Mass Identified
PRINCETON – Yale researchers have claimed that hormone leptin, which is critical for normal food intake and metabolism, appears to regulate bone mass and suppress appetite.
The hormone appears to regulate bone mass and weight by acting mainly through serotonin pathways in the brain.
“Our study challenges the view that the hypothalamus is the critical brain site where leptin acts directly to alter neuronal circuit function to suppress appetite and bone metabolism,” said Yale researcher and study co-author TamasHorvath.
“We’ve now found a novel explanation for how leptin can act on the brain,” Horvath added.
Food intake is influenced by signals that travel from the body to the brain. Leptin is one of the molecules that signal the brain to modulate food intake.
It is produced in fat cells and informs the brain of the metabolic state. If animals are missing leptin, or the leptin receptor, they eat too much and become severely obese.
To determine whether leptin regulates bone mass through serotonin pathways, Horvath and his colleagues analyzed multiple lines of mice that were genetically altered to remove serotonin in the brain.
“We found that when the serotonin pathway is turned off by leptin, the mice ate less, lost weight and their bones became weak,” said Horvath.
“When the pathway is turned on, the mice ate more, gained weight and had more bone mass. This might be why obese people tend to have much lower incidences of osteoporosis,” the expert added.