Introducing – Passion Flower

The dried aerial parts of passion flower ( Passiflora incarnata ) have historically been used as a sedative and hypnotic (for insomnia) and for “nervous” gastrointestinal complaints. However, clinical evidence supporting any therapeutic use in humans is lacking. Early evidence suggests that passion flower may have a benzodiazepine-like calming action.

Evidence for significant side effects is also unclear, and is complicated by the variety of poorly classified, potentially active constituents in different  Passiflora  species.

Passion fruit ( Passiflora  edulis  Sims), a related species, is used to flavor food.

Apigenin, apricot vine, banana passion fruit ( Passiflora  mollissima ), Calmanervin® (combination product), chrysin, Compoz® (combination product), corona de cristo, coumarin, cyanogenic glycosides, EUP, Euphytose® (combination product), fleischfarbige, fleur de la passion, flor de passion, granadilla, grenadille, harmala alkaloids, harmaline, harmalol, harman, harmine, Jamaican honeysuckle ( Passiflora  laurifolia ), madre selva, maypops, Naturest,  Passiflora  incarnata ,  Passiflora  laurifolia ,  Passiflora  mollissima , pasipay,  Passiflora , passionflower, passion vine, Passionsblume (German), purple passion flower, Sedacalm®, umbeliferone, Valverde® (combination product), vitexin, water lemon, wild passion flower.

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Congestive heart failure

An extract containing passion flower and hawthorn has been studied as a possible treatment for shortness of breath and difficulty exercising in patients with congestive heart failure. Although the results are promising, the effects of passion flower alone are unclear. High quality human research of passion flower alone compared to prescription drugs used for this condition is needed before a strong recommendation can be made. C

Sedation (agitation, anxiety, insomnia)

Passion flower has a long history of use for symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, and agitation. Early evidence from animal studies and weak human trials supports these uses. Better research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn. C

Uses based on tradition or theory

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Alcohol withdrawal, antibacterial, anti-seizure, anti-spasm, aphrodisiac, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), burns (skin), cancer, chronic pain, cough, drug addiction, Epstein-Barr virus, fungal infections, gastrointestinal discomfort (nervous stomach), Helicobacter pylori infection, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, menopausal symptoms (hot flashes), nerve pain, pain (general), skin inflammation, tension, wrinkle prevention.

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

Safety and effectiveness have not been established for any dose. Standard or well-studied doses of passion flower are currently lacking. Different preparations and doses have been used traditionally. Doses of 0.5-2 grams of dried herb have been taken 3-4 times daily by mouth. Doses of 1-4 milliliters of tincture (1:8) have been taken 3-4 times daily by mouth. Tea made from dried herb (four to eight grams) has been taken daily. A dose of 2.5 grams in an infusion has been used 3-4 times daily.

Children (younger than 18 years)

There is not enough scientific data to recommend passion flower for use in children at any dose.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

Few reports of allergic reactions, asthma, irritated sinuses, skin rashes, and skin blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis) have been reported in the available literature with the use of passion flower products. It is believed that some reactions may have been caused by impurities in combination products, not by passion flower itself.

Side Effects and Warnings

Passion flower is generally considered to be a safe herb with few reported serious side effects. In cases of side effects, the products being used have rarely been tested for contamination, which may have been the cause. Cyanide poisoning has been associated with passiflora fruit, but this has not been proven in human studies.

Rapid heart rhythm, nausea, and vomiting have been reported. Side effects may also include drowsiness/sedation and mental slowing. Patients should use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.

Passion flower may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding and affect blood tests that measure blood clotting (international normalized ratio or “INR”).

There is a case report of liver failure and death of a patient taking a preparation of passion flower with kava. Use cautiously with any kava-containing products, as kava has been associated with liver damage. It has been suggested that the cause of the liver damage is less likely related to the presence of passion flower.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the safe use of passion flower in any dose during pregnancy or breastfeeding. During the 1930s, animal studies found uterine stimulant action in components of  Passiflora .

Many tinctures contain high levels of alcohol and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

Certain substances (harmala alkaloids) with monoamine oxidase inhibitory (MAOI) action have been found in small amounts in some species of  Passiflora . Although levels of these substances may be too low to cause noticeable effects, passion flower may theoretically increase the effects of MAOI drugs, such asisocarboxazid (Marplan®), phenelzine (Nardil®), and tranylcypromine (Parnate®). Increased sedation or low blood pressure could also result from taking passion flower with tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil®), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac®).

Based on animal research, use of passion flower with alcohol or other sedatives may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®); barbiturates, such as phenobarbital; narcotics, such as codeine; some antidepressants; and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.

In theory, passion flower may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

Many tinctures contain high levels of alcohol and may cause nausea or vomiting when taken with metronidazole (Flagyl®) or disulfiram (Antabuse®).

Passion flower may also interact with anti-anxiety drugs, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antifungals, antihistamines, anti-cancer drugs, antispasmodics, antitussives, caffeine, CNS depressants, drugs broken down by the liver, flumazenil, naloxone, and other neurologic agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Certain substances (harmala alkaloids) with monoamine oxidase inhibitory (MAOI) action have been found in small amounts in some species of  Passiflora . Although levels of these substances may be too low to cause noticeable effects, in theory, use of passion flower with herbs or supplements with MAOI activity may cause additive effects. Kava ( Piper methysticum ) is believed to have weak monoamine oxidase inhibitor effects and may thus interact with passion flower. In addition, tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may lead to increased sedation or low blood pressure when taken with passion flower.

Based on animal research, use of passion flower may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements, such as valerian and kava.

 

Passion flower may have additive effects when taken with herbs or supplements that increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba ), and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

When taken with caffeine or herbs containing caffeine or caffeine-like compounds, passion flower may increase blood pressure.

Passion flower contains lycopene and may have additive effects when taken with lycopene supplements.

Passion flower may also interact with herbs or supplements taken for pain, anxiety, seizures, fungal infections, bacterial infections, or cancer. In addition, interactions with antihistamines, antispasmodics, antitussives, CNS depressants, herbs and supplements broken down by the liver, and other neurologic agents are possible.

A Guide To How Much Water, Potassium, Sodium, You Should Take

The Food and Nutrition Board released the sixth in a series of reports presenting dietary reference values for the intake of nutrients by Americans and Canadians. This new report establishes nutrient recommendations on water, salt and potassium to maintain health and reduce chronic disease risk. Highlights of the report include:

    * The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. The report did not specify exact requirements for water, but set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water — from all beverages and foods — each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. The panel did not set an upper level for water.

    * About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20 percent is derived from food.

    * Prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and therefore may raise daily fluid needs, although it is important to note that excessive amounts can be life-threatening.

    * Healthy 19- to 50-year-old adults should consume 1.5 grams of sodium and 2.3 grams of chloride each day — or 3.8 grams of salt — to replace the amount lost daily on average through sweat and to achieve a diet that provides sufficient amounts of other essential nutrients.

    * The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for salt is set at 5.8 grams per day. More than 95 percent of American men and 90 percent of Canadian men ages 31 to 50, and 75 percent of American women and 50 percent of Canadian women in this age range regularly consume salt in excess of the UL.

    * Older individuals, African Americans, and people with chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease are especially sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of salt and should consume less than the UL.

    * Adults should consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day to lower blood pressure, blunt the effects of salt, and reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss. However, most American women 31 to 50 years old consume no more than half of the recommended amount of potassium, and men’s intake is only moderately higher.

    * There was no evidence of chronic excess intakes of potassium in apparently health individuals and thus no UL was established.

 

Home Remedies Series – Pyorrhoea

Pyorrhoea is triggered by bacterial activity. A thin layer of harmful bacteria is continuously building up on our teeth. If it is not removed by tooth-cleansing, especially after meals, it forms an organised mass on the tooth surface in a short time. This is referred to as a ‘bacterial plaque’. When accumulated, bacteria in plaque produce many toxins which irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed, tender, and prone to bleeding easily. The bacterial activity is, however, facilitated by the lowered vitality of the system

Injury to gums, incorrect brushing and improper use of tooth picks

Other factors contributing to the development of pyorrhoea include injury to the gums and supporting structures by physical and chemical irritants in the mouth, incorrect brushing, stagnation of food particles, and improper use of tooth picks

Pyorrhoea treatment using Guava

Chewing unripe guava is an excellent tonic for the teeth and gums. It stops the bleeding from the gums due to its styptic effect and richness in vitamin C. Chewing the tender leaves of the guava tree also helps in curing bleeding from the gums and keeps the teeth healthy. A decoction of root-bark can also be beneficially used as a mouthwash fur swollen gums

Pyorrhoea treatment using Lemon and Lime

The regular use of lemon and lime is useful in pyorrhoea due to their high vitamin C content. They strengthen the gums and teeth, and are very effective in preventing and curing acute inflammations of the gum margins

Pyorrhoea treatment using Orange

The use of orange has also been found beneficial in the treatment of pyorrhoea. This fruit should be eaten regularly and its skin rubbed over the teeth and gums. This will improve the condition

Pyorrhoea treatment using Pomegranate Rind

Powder of the dry rind of pomegranate, mixed with pepper and common salt, can be applied as a very good dentifrice. Its regular application strengthens the gums, stops bleeding, and prevents pyorrhoea

Pyorrhoea treatment using Spinach Juice

The juice of raw spinach is another valuable remedy for the prevention and treatment of pyorrhoea because of its beneficial effect on the teeth and gums. This effect is greatly enhanced if spinach juice is taken in combination with carrot juice. Both spinach juice and carrot juice should be taken in quantities of 125 ml each daily. A permanent aid for this affliction has been found in the use of natural raw foods, and in drinking an ample quantity of carrot and spinach juice

Pyorrhoea treatment using Lettuce

Lettuce has proved useful in preventing pyorrhoea The leaves of this vegetable should be chewed everyday immediately after meals for this purpose

Pyorrhoea treatment using Wheat

Wheat is especially valuable in the prevention and treatment of pyorrhoea. Wheat wheat tortilla are usually taken with other foods, and hence, the other food also gets chewed properly. This not only provides the needed exercise for the teeth and gum but also aids in digestion

Fruit juice and fruit diet

The patient should begin the treatment with a short juice fast for three to five days. Oranges and carrot should be used for juices. After the juice fast, the patient should spend the next three to five days on an exclusive fresh fruit diet, taking three meals a day of juicy fruits

Balanced diet

Thereafter he may gradually embark upon a balanced diet, with emphasis on fresh fruits, green salads, whole-meal bread, properly cooked vegetables, cheese, nuts, and milk

White bread,refined food, condiments, meat etc should be avoided

White bread, white sugar, and all refined and tinned foods must he completely given up. Condiments, sauces, alcohol, coffee, and strong tea, as well as meat and other fresh foods should also be avoided

Other Pyorrhoea treatment

Warm-water enema and a hip bath

During the juice fast, the bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm-water enema. Daily dry friction and a hip bath should be taken

Breathing exercises and hot Epsom salts bath

Breathing and other exercises, should form a part of the morning routine. A hot Epsom salts bath taken twice weekly will also be beneficial

Introducing – Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia.

Latin Name: Melaleuca alternifolia

Other Names: Melaleuca oil, Australian tea tree oil

Historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name. The part used medicinally is the oil from the leaves.

Why Do People Use Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree has a long history of traditional use. Australian aboriginals used tea tree leaves for healing skin cuts, burns, and infections by crushing the leaves and applying them to the affected area.

Tea tree oil contains consituents called terpenoids, which have been found to have antiseptic and antifungal activity. The compound terpinen-4-ol is the most abundant and is thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil’s antimicrobial activity.

People use tea tree oil for the following conditions:

    * Acne

    * Athlete’s foot

   * Dandruff

Sources of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is most commonly found as a pure essential oil. It is also an ingredient in creams, ointments, lotions, soaps, and shampoos.

Tea tree oil should not be confused with Chinese tea oil, cajeput oil, kanuka oil, manuka oil, ti tree oil, and niauouli oil.

What is the Evidence for Tea Tree Oil?

There have only been a few, older clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of tea tree oil in humans.

    * Athlete’s Foot

 

      A randomized controlled trial examined the use of 25% tea tree oil solution, 50% tea tree oil solution, or placebo in 158 people with athlete’s foot. After twice daily applications for 4 weeks, the two tea tree oil solutions were found to be significantly more effective than placebo.

      In the 50% tea tree oil group, 64% were cured, compared to 31% in the placebo group. Four people using the tea tree oil withdrew from the study because they developed dermatitis (which improved after discontinuing tea tree oil use). Otherwise, there were no significant side effects.

    * Fungal Infection of the Toenails

      A randomized, controlled trial published in the Journal of Family Practice looked at the twice-daily application of 100% tea tree oil or 1% clotrimazole solution (a topical antifungal medication) in 177 people with toenail fungal infection. After 6 months, the tea tree oil was found to be as effective as the topical antifungal, based on clinical assessment and toenail cultures.

      Another randomized, controlled trial examined the effectiveness and safety of a cream containing 5% tea tree oil and 2% butenafine hydrochloride in 60 people with toenail fungal infection. After 16 weeks, 80% of people using the cream had significant improvement compared to none in the placebo group. Side effects included mild inflammation.

      A third double-blind study looked at 100% tea tree oil compared with a topical antifungal, clotrimazole, in 112 people with fungal infections of the toenails. The tea tree oil was as effective as the antifungal.

    * Acne

      A single-blind randomized trial by the Department of Dermatology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia compared the effectiveness and tolerance of 5% tea tree oil gel with 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion in 124 people with mild to moderate acne. People in both groups had a significant reduction in inflamed and non-inflammed acne lesions (open and closed comedones) over the three month period, although tea tree oil was less effective than benzoyl peroxide.

      Although the tea tree oil took longer to work initially, there were fewer side effects with tea tree oil. In the benzoyl peroxide group, 79 percent of people had side effects including itching, stinging, burning, and dryness. Researchers noted that there were far less side effects in the tea tree oil group.

    * Dandruff

      A single-blind study examined the use of 5% tea tree oil shampoo or placebo in 126 people with mild to moderate dandruff. After 4 weeks, the tea tree oil shampoo significantly reduced symptoms of dandruff.

Safety Concerns

One study shows that tea tree oil may alter hormone levels. There have been three case reports of topical tea tree oil products causing unexplained breast enlargement in boys. People with hormone-sensitive cancers or pregnant or nursing women should avoid tea tree oil. For more information, read Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Linked to Breast Enlargement in Boys.

Occasionally, people may have allergic reactions to tea tree oil, ranging from mild contact dermatitis to severe blisters and rashes.

Undiluted tea tree oil may cause skin irritation, redness, blistering, and itching.

Tea tree oil should not be taken internally, even in small quantities. It can cause impaired immune function, diarrhea, and potentially fatal central nervous system depression (excessive drowsiness, sleepiness, confusion, coma).

The tea tree oil in commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes is generally considered to be acceptable because it is not swallowed. Avoid homemade tea tree oil mouthwashes.

Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of overdose: excessive drowsiness, sleepiness, poor coordination, diarrhea, vomiting.

 

Don’t use tea tree oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

Keep tea tree oil out of the reach of children and pets.

Scientists Unveil Brain Area Involved In Alert Status Control

JERUSALEM –  Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have gained fresh insights into how anaesthesia and anaesthesia-like states are controlled in the brain, opening the door to possible new future treatments of various states of loss of consciousness, such as reversible coma.

Marshall Devor, the Cecile and Seymour Alpert Professor of Pain Research, graduate student Ruth Abulafia and research associate Dr. Vladimir Zalkind say that they have basically discovered a brain area that participates in the control of “alert status”.

Their findings suggest that a small group of neurons near the base of the brain, in the mesopontine tegmentum, has executive control over the alert status of the entire cerebrum and spinal cord, and can generate loss of pain sensation, postural collapse, and loss of consciousness through specific neural circuitry.hey came to this conclusion after observing that microinjection of tiny quantities of certain anaesthetic drugs into this newly discovered “centre of consciousness” in laboratory rats induced a profound suppressive effect on the activity of the cerebral cortex.

The researchers admit that it is not certain that their findings will translate reliably from rats to man.

They, however, insist that in case their findings do replicate in man, the new knowledge could contribute to the ability of medical science to treat disorders of consciousness and its loss, such as insomnia, excessive sleepiness and even coma.

Perhaps by direct electrical stimulation of the cells in question, it might prove possible to arouse a patient from coma, say the researchers.

They further say that the discovery of a specific cluster of neurons that control the brain’s state of consciousness can be expected to lead to the beginnings of an understanding of the actual wiring diagram that permits a biological machine, the brain, to be conscious.

A research article describing their study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Chocolate, Water Can Melt Away Your Pain

WASHINGTON – Eating chocolate or drinking water can relieve aches and pains, a new study has shown.

A team of researchers says the distraction of eating or drinking for pleasure acts as a natural painkiller.

Although the findings come from studies on animals, the scientists believe the same effect takes place in people.

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience by authors Peggy Mason, PhD, professor of neurobiology, and Hayley Foo, PhD, research associate professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago, is the first to demonstrate that this powerful painkilling effect occurs while the animals are ingesting food or liquid even in the absence of appetite.

“It’s a strong, strong effect, but it’s not about hunger or appetite,” Mason said.

“If you have all this food in front of you that’s easily available to reach out and get, you’re not going to stop eating, for basically almost any reason,” the expert added.

In the experiments, rats were given either a chocolate chip to eat or had sugar water or regular water infused directly into their mouth. As the rat swallowed the chocolate or fluid, a light-bulb beneath the cage was switched on, providing a heat stimulus that normally caused the animal to lift its paw off the floor.

Mason and Foo found that rats were much slower to raise their paw while eating or drinking, compared to tests conducted while they were awake, but not eating.

Surprisingly, the researchers found no difference in the delayed paw-lift response between when the rat was eating chocolate and when it was drinking water, despite previous research indicating that only sugary substances were protective against pain.

“This really shows it has nothing to do with calories,” Mason said. “Water has no calories, saccharine has no sugar, but both have the same effect as achocolate chip. It’s really shocking.”

Mason and Foo then repeated the heat test as the rats were given quinine, a bitter drink that causes rats to make an expression called a gape that’s akin to a child’s expression of “yuck.” During quinine administration, the rats reacted to heat as quickly as when not eating, suggesting that a non-pleasurable food or drink fails to trigger pain relief.

The context of ingesting was also important to whether eating or drinking blunted pain, the researchers found. When rats were made ill by a drug treatment,eating chocolate no longer delayed their response. However, drinking water still caused a reduced pain response, indicating that drinking water was considered a positive experience while ill.

By selectively inactivating a region in the brainstem called the raphe mangus – an area previously shown to blunt pain during sleep and urination – Mason and Foo were able to remove the effect of drinking water on the rat’s pain response. The brainstem controls subconscious responses such as breathing and perspiration during exercise.

“You’re essentially at the mercy of your brainstem, and the raphe magnus is part of that,” Mason said. “It tells you, ‘you’re going to finish eating this, whether you like it or not,’ just like you sweat while running whether you like it or not.”

 

In the wild, Mason said, rats and other animals would not want to be distracted during the rare but important times that they were able to eat or drink. Therefore, the activation of the raphe magnus during eating or drinking would allow the rat to filter out distractions until their meal was completed. For obvious reasons, this naturalpain relief would be activated when an animal is eating or drinking something pleasurable, but not when it tastes something that could be toxic or harmful.

Alcohol Protects Accident Victims from Distress

SYDNEY – Moderate alcohol consumption is likely to protect accident victims from post-traumatic psychological distress, says a new study.

The study assessed 1,045 patients hospitalised after traumatic injury, for patterns of alcohol consumption before and three months after the accident.

This was compared with the level of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one week after the accident and at three months.

Researchers from University of Adelaide (U-A) found that moderate alcohol consumption before and after the accident predicted lower levels of psychological distress.

Conversely, both abstinence from alcohol and high levels of drinking produced poorer mental health outcomes.

“Rather than suggesting abstinence following exposure to traumatic events…, the importance of moderate drinking should be emphasised as this behaviour may have some benefit in minimising distress,” says Alexander McFarlane, professor at U-A, who led the study.

A small group of patients showed a link between more severe PSTD and the emergence of alcohol abuse, suggesting “self-medication”, says an U-A release.

These findings have been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Computer Model of Brain Can Help Victims of Anxiety Disorder

ST. LOUIS –  The brain is a complex system made of billions of neurons (nerve cells) and thousands of connections that relate to every human feeling, including one of the strongest emotions, fear. Researchers have started using computer models of the brain to study the connections.

Most neurological fear studies have been rooted in fear-conditioning experiments. Now, University of Missouri (U-M) researchers are using computational models to study the brain’s connections.

Guoshi Li, U-M electrical and computer engineering doctoral student, has discovered new evidence on how the brain reacts to fear, including important findings that could help victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, an anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events).

“Computational models make it much easier to study the brain because they can effectively integrate different types of information related to a problem into a computational framework and analyse possible neural (bearing on nerve cells) mechanisms from a systems perspective,” Li said.

From previous experiments, scientists have found that fear can subside when overcome with fear extinction memory, but it is not permanently lost.

Fear extinction is a process in which a conditioned response to a stimulant that produces fear gradually diminishes over time as subjects, such as rats in auditory fear experiments, learn to disassociate a response from a stimulus.

One theory has concluded that fear extinction memory deletes fear memory, and another concluded that fear memory is not lost, but is inhibited by extinction memory as fear can recover with the passage of time after extinction, says an U-M release.

For PTSD victims, the fear circuit is disrupted and they cannot retrieve the fear extinction memory. However, the fear extinction memory exists, so the fear memory dominates every time victims get a fear cue.

Brain Can Quickly Learn a Forgotten Language Again

LONDON – Many of us learn a foreign language when we are young, but in some cases, exposure is brief and we never get to hear or practice the tongue subsequently.

Our subjective impression is often that the neglected language completely fades away from our memory. But does use it or lose it apply to foreign languages?

Although it may seem we have absolutely no memory of the neglected language, new research suggests this forgotten language may be more deeply engraved in our minds than we realize.

Psychologists Jeffrey Bowers, Sven L. Mattys and Suzanne Gage from the University of Bristol recruited volunteers who were native English speakers but who had learned either Hindi or Zulu as children when living abroad.

The researchers focused on Hindi and Zulu because these languages contain certain phonemes that are difficult for native English speakers to recognize. A phoneme is the smallest sound in a language-a group of phonemes forms a word.

Scientists asked volunteers to complete a background vocabulary test to see if they remembered any words from the neglected language. They then trained the participants to distinguish between pairs of phonemes that started Hindi or Zulu words.

As it turned out, even though the volunteers showed no memory of the second language in the vocabulary test, they were able to quickly relearn and correctly identify phonemes that were spoken in the neglected language.

These findings suggest that exposing young children to foreign languages even if they do not continue to speak them can have a lasting impact on speech perception, says a Bristol release.

The study authors conclude: Even if the language is forgotten (or feels this way) after many years of disuse, leftover traces of the early exposure can manifest themselves as an improved ability to relearn the language.

These findings were published in Psychological Science.

Chromosomal Birth Defects Linked to Absence of a Gene

MIAMI – In a breakthrough study, a cell biologist at The Florida State University has found that the absence of a key molecular player, known as Pds5, could lead to a number of chromosomal birth defects like Down syndrome.

For the study, Hong-Guo Yu used yeast genetics and a novel scheme to selectively remove a single protein from the cell division process called meiosis.

He found that when a Pds5 goes missing, chromosomes fail to segregate and pair up properly, and birth defects such as Down syndrome can result.

The study sheds new light on the protein Pds5, its crucial regulatory role during meiosis, and the impact of its absence on the molecular-level genesis of human chromosomal birth defects that include Down, Edwards, Patau, Turner, Klinefelter’s and XYY syndromes.

The findings may contribute to the eventual development of targeted, molecular-level interventions.

Yu explained how the meiotic stage is set and what goes wrong when key elements are rearranged.

“To produce a genetically balanced gamete (sperm and egg), the cell must contend with two sets of chromosome pairs, homologs and sisters. Homologs are the nearly identical chromosomes inherited from each parent; sisters are exactly identical pairs that are produced like photocopies as part of normal cell division,” he said.

“During normal meiosis, the process of division that halves the number of chromosomes per cell, my colleagues and I discovered that Pds5 regulates the pairing and synapsis (joining together) of ‘mom and dad’ homologs. We also learned that Pds5 plays a vital role in the synaptonemal complex, a glue-like protein structure that homologs use to literally stick together as they pair up. In addition, we found that, although sister chromatids enter meiosis in very close proximity to one another, Pds5 acts to inhibit synapsis between them, a good thing because, then, meiotic conditions support the necessary pairing of homologs,” he added.

On the other hand, removing Pds5 during meiosis triggers a chromosomal catastrophe.

“In order to observe what happened when the Pds5 went missing from the process, we performed a ‘molecular genetics trick’ that had never been applied to this particular protein before, and it worked. We successfully engineered yeast cells that shut down Pds5 only during meiosis, but not when they were vegetative,” said Yu.

Thus, Pds5 was no longer present to regulate homolog organization and transmission in the meiotic yeast cells.

The synaptonemal complex, which normally would support the synapsis of homologs by creating a sticky bond along their entire length, failed to form.

And in the resulting meiotic malfunction, the identical sister chromosomes began to synapse instead.

“When Pds5 is removed and sister chromatids become synapsed as a result, the segregation and recombination of homologs essential for genetic diversity fails. This finding is highly important, because failure to generate a crossover between homologs leads to chromosome missegregation and can cause human chromosomal birth defects such as Down syndrome, which affects about one in 800 newborns in the United States,” said Yu.

 

The study has been published in the Journal of Cell Biology. (ANI)

Could Higher Levels Of Vitamin D Cut The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes?

LONDON – People who get plenty of vitamin D can cut their chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by 55 per cent.

Researchers from the Warwick Medical School reviewed 28 existing studies on almost 100,000 people looking at vitamin D levels among middle-aged and elderly people. They also found high levels of vitamin D reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 33 per cent.

Sunshine brings risks too

Around 90 per cent of our vitamin D comes from sunshine and experts warn that people should be sensible about sun exposure – 30 minutes twice a week on the face and arms with no sunscreen is the maximum safe exposure for adults and children.

Clinical research needed to assess long-term benefits

“The study suggests that there is a link between higher levels of vitamin D and lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

“However, it does not show that vitamin D levels are a direct cause of these reductions in risk. Diabetes UK would be very interested to see results of clinical research following people over a period of time to establish the long-term beneficial effects of increased levels of vitamin D.

Help reduce your risk of diabetes

“What we do know is that an unhealthy lifestyle, having a large waist or being overweight can cause Type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes UK recommends that people should eat a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, sugar and salt, and do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day to reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

The research was published in the journal Maturitas.