Fructose Effects in Brain May Contribute to Overeating

frucConsuming fructose appears to cause changes in the brain that may lead to overeating, a new study suggests.

“Increases in fructose consumption have paralleled the increasing prevalence of obesity, and high-fructose diets are thought to promote weight gain and insulin resistance,” lead author Kathleen A. Page, MD, Continue reading

Sonar Device Brings Vision to those Blind from Birth

Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are developing a sonar-based device that, according to preliminary tests, already allows the congenitally blind to distinguish between different shapes and even to read. Just as shockingly, the device appears to activate areas of the brain that were formerly believed to Continue reading

Why Puzzles Aren’t the Best Thing to Prevent Dementia

While it’s well-known that mental activities, like crossword puzzles, can be an excellent way to help prevent dementia, a new study published in the journal Neurology has actually found an even better way to keep your mind fresh.

According to the study, older adults who exercise regularly may better protect against brain shrinkage than if they were to engage in mental (or even social) activities. Going for a walk, riding a bicycle, or enjoying a swim will help protect your mind from dementia better Continue reading

Team Creates New View of Body’s Infection Response

A new 3-D view of the body’s response to infection — and the ability to identify proteins involved in the response — could point to novel bio markers and therapeutic agents for infectious diseases.

Vanderbilt University scientists in multiple disciplines combined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and imaging mass spectrometry to visualize the inflammatory response to a bacterial infection in mice. The techniques, described in Cell Host & Microbe and featured on the journal cover, offer opportunities for discovering proteins not previously implicated in the inflammatory response. Continue reading

Sodium Buildup in Brain Linked to Disability in Multiple Sclerosis

A buildup of sodium in the brain detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a biomarker for the degeneration of nerve cells that occurs in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

The study found that patients with early-stage MS showed Continue reading

How to Stop Your Brain from Shrinking

Do you know why you lose some of your memory function when you age? It’s because the brain actually shrinks. This, you are no doubt thinking, is something that most definitely can’t be reversed. Everyone should just accept that an agile brain and an excellent memory are things of the past once they hit middle age. But not so, according to a recent study done by researchers in Columbus, Ohio. Results show that a one-year period of exercise doesn’t only slow down brain shrinkage — it could also actually reverse it! For the study, Continue reading

US Spends far more for Health Care than 12 Industrialized Nations, but Quality Varies

US spending linked to higher prices and greater use of medical technology, not more doctor visits or hospital stays

The United States spends more on health care Continue reading

Proof That Vitamins Make You Smarter

A new study has found that elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids were, overall, smarter. They did better on mental acuity tests and actually had less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, junk food led to the opposite result. Score another one for nutrition.

This was the first specific measure of a wide range of nutrients in the blood and how they corresponded to mental health and cognitive function. It uncovered positive effects of high levels of vitamins B, C, D, E and the healthy oils most commonly found in fish. The study was published last week in “Neurology.”

The study included 104 people (average age of 87) who were not at risk for memory problems or poor mental acuity. Continue reading

Dreaming Takes the Sting Out of Painful Memories

UC Berkeley researchers have found that stress chemicals shut down and the brain processes emotional experiences during the REM dream phase of sleep

They say time heals all wounds, and new research from the University of California, Berkeley, indicates that time spent in dream sleep can help.

UC Berkeley researchers have found that during the dream phase of sleep, also known as REM sleep, our stress chemistry shuts down and the brain processes emotional experiences and takes the painful edge off difficult memories.

The findings offer a compelling explanation for why people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as war veterans, have a hard time recovering from painful experiences and suffer reoccurring nightmares.They also offer clues into why we dream.

“The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, Continue reading

Soothing Chronic Pain with Meditation is Best

Chronic pain is estimated to affect over 76 million people, more than diabetes and heart disease combined, and back pain is our country’s leading cause of disability for people under 45. And though the pharmaceutical industry seems very adept at introducing one new painkiller after another, the pills don’t always help. A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, however, suggests something else might: meditation. It seems that improving your meditation technique could very well be more effective than painkillers at cutting down on pain, and that could save you hundreds in prescription drug costs.

The details: This was a small study that looked at just 15 adults who sat through four 20-minute training sessions on mindfulness meditation. However, before and after the training, the participants’ brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Continue reading

Shamatha Meditation shows Pain Reduction on MRI

Focus, Zen, meditate and your pain may go away or diminish. A new MRI brain image study shows that just after a short period of meditation, pain intensity is weakened when subjected to unpleasant stimuli such as extreme heat.

The study participants were taught a meditation technique known as focused attention, which involves paying close attention to breathing patterns while acknowledging and letting go of thoughts that distract you.

Fadel Zeidan, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says:

“This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.”

Prior to learning the meditation technique, brain imaging showed significant activity  Continue reading

New software means doctors can use cell phones to make diagnoses

Thanks to a first-of-its-kind OK by the FDA this month, doctors can use their cell phones to examine imaging scans and even make diagnoses for conditions ranging from heart problems to bleeding in the brain.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials gave clearance on Feb. 4 for a new app that allows results from MRI and similar scans to be shown on Apple iPhones and iPad. As of Monday, doctors have been able to acquire the new application, further igniting the already exploding world of telemedicine.

“You can actually diagnose a disease on a mobile device,” said Dr. Khan Siddiqui, chair of an information technology committee at the American College of Radiology, a national group of 34,000 radiologists and other health care providers. “At the patients’ bedside, they (doctors) can open up the application and not only make a treatment decision but explain to the patient what they can do.” Produced by MIM Software Inc. in Cleveland, the app comes with restrictions. Doctors can only use it when they’re away from the office and can’t get to their own computers and work stations. It is approved for viewing and making diagnoses from many types of scans including magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography or CT and the nuclear medicine test called positron emission tomography or PET.

But the phone apps aren’t cleared for other forms of imaging, including X-rays.

In Ventura County, news of the cell phone imaging triggered a mix of excitement about the possibilities and skepticism over patient privacy and the reliability of using mobile devices to determine what’s wrong.

At a Starbucks in Camarillo, financial planner Eric Swanson worried about screen resolution. His concerns didn’t dissipate with the news that the FDA ruled the quality good enough for diagnoses.

“I’d have to see one to believe it,” he said, fearful also that his doctor wouldn’t be the only one able to view his medical tests. “As long as there are hackers out there, they can get into anything.” Doctors worry about patient privacy too in what they call the medical ether of cyberspace, though MIM Software officials offered assurances the images are encrypted and transmitted on tightly secured networks.

Physicians also focus on the ways the technology can improve care.

“I think that’s an amazing advance,” said Dr. Vishva Dev, a Thousand Oaks cardiologist who sees conveying information on mobile devices as a way to save lives. He noted that being able to immediately see a CT scan of a stroke patient can change the way doctors respond to the injury.

“The timing window changes the treatment options,” he said, suggesting waves of new apps are coming. “I think the evolution is rapid and very soon handheld devices accessing imaging and graphics and other data will almost be routine.” It’s already common to transmit images of spine or brain injuries on the Web, allowing radiology specialists on the other side of the country to examine the images. One difference of the new application that concerns radiologist Dr. Irwin Grossman is the size of the screen, resolution and limits on the amount of information doctors will see at one time.

“I don’t think I’d be giving a final diagnosis and report from my iPad,” said the medical director of Grossman Imaging Centers in Ventura and Oxnard. He suggested the handheld images may be more valuable in offering a way radiologists away from the office can offer instructions to imaging technologists.

Siddiqui predicted the software may be mostly used not by radiologists but by other doctors who will use the high-resolution images to explain a diagnosis to a patient. Often, doctors now resort to scribbling a diagram on a piece of paper at a patient’s bedside.

“It just enables a lot more communication,” he said of the new technology.

Mark Cain, chief technology officer at MIM Software, said the company also is developing an application that will allow patients to access their own imaging scans. He said the reality of the doctors app is that when physicians don’t have access to an MRI, they either bypass it or the patient waits.

Dr. William Goldie, a pediatric neurologist at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, said he thinks doctors likely won’t use the images on their mobile devices as the sole basis of treatment. Rather, they’ll see the images as a way to confirm or challenge earlier diagnoses.

The value of technology comes partly from giving doctors a tool that can reduce health care delays for the patient, said Goldie. He worries about privacy and the chance doctors could be tempted to focus more attention on their handheld devices than on the patients.

But he also noted that telemedicine is everywhere, reflected in the national push to embrace electronic medical records and the growing number of websites aimed at helping patients understand their health problems. He pointed too at the software companies lining up to sell new ways of merging medicine and technology.

The changes are necessary, he said. They are also inevitable.

“This is something that is exploding in front of our eyes,” he said.