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Monday, 29 December 2014

Sleep, Anxiety and Addiction to be Treated by 'Clock Proteins'

Findings about "clock proteins" offer the potential to manage circadian rhythm and treat problems like sleep, anxiety disorders.

Thomas Burris, PhD, chair of pharmacological and physiological science at Saint Louis University, and his colleagues examined compounds that target a protein called REV-ERB. It is a core component of our clock, which appears to play a key role in regulating mammals' internal clocks.

The team examined effects of the REV-ERB drug on patterns of sleep and wakefulness and found that the compound increases wakefulness, reduces REM and slow-wave sleep, and, notably, decreases anxiety. 

"Mice without it are arrhythmic. This study demonstrated that when we give mice a synthetic compound that turns REV-ERB on, it altered their circadian rhythm."

The REV-ERB drug appears to target the clock in a way that is distinct from the common pathways where drugs that increase arousal (wakefulness) also increase anxiety. For example, cocaine, amphetamines). And, vice versa: Drugs that decrease anxiety also decrease arousal (for example, benzodiazepines, ethanol).

Further, the REV-ERB drug appears to be associated with a suppression of reward-seeking behavior. Drug addiction has a circadian component and mice with mutations in "clock genes" (genes that affect our internal clocks) have altered responsiveness to the reward associated with cocaine, morphine and alcohol. 

Burris speculates that REV-ERB targeted drug effect on the clock would modulate reward-seeking behavior, and so may be useful in treating addiction. 

Saint Louis University,

Apps to Help Autistic Kids Learn Social Skills

New Google Glass apps can help autistic kids learn social and communication skills, while also providing caregivers with feedback. The apps and hardware add-ons are being developed by Brain Power, The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup.

The startup was founded by neuroscientist Ned T Sahin, who did his graduate training at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Since the autism disorder spectrum is so wide, the company is initially focusing on children with moderate to high-functioning autism, though it hopes to extend its apps' capabilities to other kids. 

More than 200 people have so far signed up for Brain Power's beta programme, which will be completed in three phases next year. 

Google Glass is ideal for helping kids with autism. It has an accelerometer chip that enables head gestures, which Brain Power uses to track when kids look or don't look at their parents, as well as stereotypy. 

"In this way, we can provide numerical, objective, repeatable assessment of a child's current behaviours, as well as progress over time," Sahin said. 

Google Glass apps: They encourage kids to interact with others and make eye contact by presenting game-like exercises. The apps have 'social engagement module monitors' that assess how a child engaged with parents. 

The software also helps children interpret people's expressions through a series of games. Other areas the suite will tackle include language. When a kid looks at something through Google Glass, the object is recognized and its name is displayed and spoken through the Glass's earbud. 

Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 


Comparing analgesic effect of manual vs laser acupuncture for lateral epicondylalgia

A team of researchers from China Medical University and Da-Chien General Hospital in Taiwan (R.O.C.) recently compared the analgesic effect of laser acupuncture and manual acupuncture for the treatment of lateral epicondylalgia. Manual acupuncture is effective in short-term pain relief for the treatment of lateral epicondylalgia.
The acupuncture increases endorphin secretion to relieve pain and affects the pathway of the Aδ nerve fiber to inhibit painful sensation and relieves pain in certain body regions. The acupuncture causes a De Qi sensation and a sour and warm feeling at the acupuncture point. It is critical in pain relief because it activates the descending pain inhibitory system in the central nervous system.
Low-level laser therapy for laser acupuncture has been recently used for treatment of orthopedic diseases. Compared with manual acupuncture, laser therapy applied to the acupuncture point has more advantages because it is painless, aseptic, safe, dosage adjustable, and user friendly. The pain relief achieved using laser acupuncture is related to the metabolism of adenosine triphosphate because it encourages the myofascial trigger point to absorb energy and thereby causes local hypoxia to increase blood circulation, which subsequently decreases the pain caused by lateral epicondylalgia.
The team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the analgesic effect of laser acupuncture and manual acupuncture for treating lateral epicondylalgia. We investigated studies in the Medline, PubMed, and CINAHL databases, published from January 1980 to December 2013.
Based on these statistics, the research team calculated the experimental event rate (EER), control event rate (CER), absolute risk reduction (ARR), and relative risk reduction (RRR) of the studies and analyzed the number needed to treat (NNT). The total effect was calculated by a total random effect model to assume the analgesic effect of laser acupuncture and manual acupuncture. The results indicated that manual acupuncture exhibited a substantial difference in treatment effect.
According to the Philadelphia Panel Classification System, they assigned as evidence-based results:
  • The short-term effect of manual acupuncture on the relief of pain caused by lateral epicondylalgia is Level B
  • The long-term effect of manual acupuncture of the relief of pain caused by lateral epicondylalgia is Level C+
  • The analgesic effect of laser acupuncture in treating lateral epicondylalgia is Level D
  • The analgesic effect of manual acupuncture on the treatment of lateral epicondylalgia is Level B.
Manual acupuncture immediately relieves the pain of lateral epicondylalgia, but its long-term analgesic effect is unremarkable. Applying it at a suitable acupuncture point and to an optimal acupuncture depth can effectively treat lateral epicondylalgia. The study indicates that manual acupuncture applied to lateral epicondylalgia produces stronger evidence of pain relief than the laser acupuncture does.

Yoga as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome are major public health problems in the USA and worldwide. There is promising evidence of Yoga, a popular mind-body practice, on improving cardio-metabolic health. This review helps strengthen the evidence base for yoga as a potentially effective therapy for such conditions. The results support earlier reviews on the positive benefits of yoga for CVD prevention. The review demonstrates the potential of yoga to have an impact on concrete, physiological outcomes that represent some of the greatest health burdens today."The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials" FromEuropean Journal of Preventive Cardiology (a SAGE Journal)
Read the full article here:

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Study sheds light on what causes cells to divide

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ever larger?
A novel study published online today in the journal Current Biology has finally provided an answer to this long unsolved conundrum. And it's not what many biologists expected.
"How cells control their size and maintain stable size distributions is one of the most fundamental, unsolved problems in biology," said Suckjoon Jun, an assistant professor of physics and molecular biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research study with Massimo Vergassola, a professor of physics. "Even for the bacterium E. coli, arguably the most extensively studied organism to date, no one has been able to answer this question."
Finding a solution was more than a basic-science pursuit for the scientists, who pointed out that learning more about the triggers of cell division would enable researchers to better understand such processes as the runaway cell division that leads to cancer. To conduct the study, Jun and his colleagues developed a tiny device to isolate and physically manipulate individual genetic materials.
"It turned out that we can use this device to also follow the life history of thousands of individual bacterial cells for hundreds of generations," he said. "We looked at the growth patterns of the cells very, very carefully, and realized that there is something really special about the way the cells control their size."
"In our study, we monitored the growth and division of hundreds of thousands of two kinds of bacterial cells, E. coli and B. subtilis, under a wide range of tightly controlled steady-state growth conditions," said Jun. "This produced statistical samples about three orders of magnitude, or a thousand times better, than those previously available. We could thus pursue an unprecedented level of quantitative analysis."
The scientists found through their development of mathematical models that matched their experimental data that the growth of cells followed the growth law, essentially exponential growth based on a constant rate. But they also found to their surprise that cell size or the time between cell divisions had little to do with when the cells divided. Instead, to keep the distribution of different sized cells within a population constant, the cells followed what the researchers termed "an extraordinarily simple quantitative principle of cell-size control."
"Specifically, we showed that cells sense neither space nor time, but add constant size irrespective of their birth size," said Jun. "This 'adder' principle automatically ensures stability of size distributions."
"E. coli and B. subtilis are one billion years divergent in evolution, and they are the textbook examples of the diversity of molecular details for biological controls in different bacterial species. Thus, their sharing the same quantitative principle for size maintenance is a textbook level discovery."

Egg and sperm race: Scientists create precursors to human egg and sperm

Scientists at the University of Cambridge working with the Weizmann Institute have created primordial germ cells - cells that will go on to become egg and sperm - using human embryonic stem cells. Although this had already been done using rodent stem cells, the study, published today in the journal Cell, is the first time this has been achieved efficiently using human stem cells.
IMAGEWhen an egg cell is fertilised by a sperm, it begins to divide into a cluster of cells known as a blastocyst, the early stage of the embryo. Within this ball of cells, some cells form the inner cell mass - which will develop into the foetus - and some form the outer wall, which becomes the placenta. Cells in the inner cell mass are 'reset' to become stem cells - cells that have the potential to develop into any type of cell within the body. A small number of these cells become primordial germ cells (PGCs) - these have the potential to become germ cells (sperm and egg), which in later life will pass on the offspring's genetic information to its own offspring.
"The creation of primordial germ cells is one of the earliest events during early mammalian development," says Dr Naoko Irie, first author of the paper from the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge. "It's a stage we've managed to recreate using stem cells from mice and rats, but until now few researches have done this systematically using human stem cells. It has highlighted important differences between embryo development in humans and rodents that may mean findings in mice and rats may not be directly extrapolated to humans."
Professor Surani at the Gurdon Institute, who led the research, and his colleagues found that a gene known as SOX17 is critical for directing human stem cells to become PGCs (a stage known as 'specification'). This was a surprise as the mouse equivalent of this gene is not involved in the process, suggesting a key difference between mouse and human development. SOX17 had previously been shown to be involved in directing stem cells to become endodermal cells, which then develop into cells including those for the lung, gut and pancreas, but this is the first time it has been seen in PGC specification.
The group showed that PGCs could also be made from reprogrammed adult cells, such as skin cells, which will allow investigations on patient-specific cells to advance knowledge of the human germline, infertility and germ cell tumours. The research also has potential implications for understanding the process of 'epigenetic' inheritance. Scientists have known for some time that our environment - for example, our diet or smoking habits - can affect our genes through a process known as methylation whereby molecules attach themselves to our DNA, acting like dimmer switches to increase or decrease the activity of genes. These methylation patterns can be passed down to the offspring.
Professor Surani and colleagues have shown that during the PGC specification stage, a programme is initiated to erase these methylation patterns, acting as a 'reset' switch. However, traces of these patterns might be inherited - it is not yet clear why this might occur.
"Germ cells are 'immortal' in the sense that they provide an enduring link between all generations, carrying genetic information from one generation to the next," adds Professor Surani. "The comprehensive erasure of epigenetic information ensures that most, if not all, epigenetic mutations are erased, which promotes 'rejuvenation' of the lineage and allows it to give rise to endless generations. These mechanisms are of wider interest towards understanding age-related diseases, which in part might be due to cumulative epigenetic mutations."
Source:Journal Cell

Most Popular Video of 2014 :Green Spaces Deliver Lasting Mental Health Benefits

In this video from the seventh most-visited release, Dr. Ian Alcock describes his research on how green spaces in towns and cities create immediate and long lasting improvements in people's well-being.

New Genetic Anomalies Discovered in Lung Cancer

 New Genetic Anomalies Discovered in Lung Cancer
Patients whose tumors contained a large number of gene fusions had worse outcomes than patients with fewer gene fusions, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center who analyzed the DNA and RNA of lung cancers. Gene fusions are a type of genetic anomaly found in cancers that occurs when genes get rearranged and fuse together. Researchers also identified several new genetic anomalies that occur in lung cancer, including in patients with a history of smoking.  


Study author Arul Chinnaiyan said, "Lung cancer is quite a complex disease with many causes. Our deep sequencing analysis found new gene fusions in lung cancers that were negative for the most commonly known fusions. These new anomalies could potentially be targets for developing new treatments."

Researchers studied 753 lung cancer samples that represented both smokers and non-smokers. They found 6,348 unique fusions with an average of 13 fusions per tumor sample. Anomalies in two gene pathways were most prevalent- the Hippo pathway, which has previously been linked to some rare cancers; and NRG1, which has not previously been linked to cancer. The researchers recommend expanding lung cancer subtypes based on these molecular characteristics.

The team suggests exploring these inhibitors as potential therapeutics in lung cancer. Pharmaceutical companies are already investigating drugs that could target the Hippo pathway and NRG1. Also, the finding that the number of gene fusions was linked to prognosis suggests that a screen could be developed to help doctors determine how aggressive a patient's tumor is likely to be and to personalize treatment accordingly.

Source:The study is published in 'Nature Communications'. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Extra Vitamin E may Help Protect Against Pneumonia: Study

Recently, a new study has revealed that extra vitamin E may help protect against common type of Pneumonia in humans, as it showed promising results in protecting older mice from the disease.
 Extra Vitamin E may Help Protect Against Pneumonia: Study


Microbiologists and nutrition researchers from Tufts University reported that the extra vitamin E helped regulate the mice's immune system. 

The reduced numbers of bacteria and white blood cells resulted in less lung damage in the older mice who received extra vitamin E. These mice were able to control the infection as efficiently as young mice. 

A 2013 report on antibiotic resistance threats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified infections from Streptococcus pneumoniae as a serious concern that requires "prompt and sustained action." 

The bacterium causes 1.2 million drug-resistant infections, 19,000 excess hospitalizations, 7,000 deaths, and 96 million dollars in excess medical costs per year. Older adults and young children are at most risk for developing these drug-resistant infections. 
The study is published in the Journal of Immunology.

Indian regulatory system needs to be strengthened to improve clinical trial industry in India: Neuland labs CFO

As the clinical trial industry is facing lot of resistance in India, Industry experts are of the view that the Indian regulatory system should undergo massive reforms to contain unethical practices in clinical trials and should pave way to open up at least 10 per cent of global clinical trials in the country.

According to N S Viswanathan, chief financial officer, Neuland Laboratories limited, the Indian drug regulatory system is very weak when compared to the US FDA, particularly in the clinical trials segment, the rules and protocols should be amended and strengthened so that it should not give any chance for the unscrupulous and rouge elements to take advantage of any loopholes in the regulations.

“Unlike in the western world, in most cases the Indian researchers and clinical research organisations do not stick to their actual experimental results. They tend to manipulate it and try to match it with the standard values.  Because of this kind of mindset we are not able to invent new things. We need to change our mindset and should believe in ourselves and should be able to challenge the existing systems. At the same time the Indian regulatory system should also be reformed and all loopholes should be plugged to make it more transparent and accountable,” said the CFO.

Though the country has a huge potential for clinical trial industry in India, the industry is facing lot of resistance both from rights groups and from the regulators.  Not just that, because of a few rouge elements involved in the clinical trial industry and the media is also responsible for blowing the issue out of proportion, the industry has lost lot of opportunities in the drug discovery. During the past 2 years the DCGI has not even given more than 50 approvals for clinical trials in India. It is right time that India needs to streamline its regulations and should pave way to open up at least 10 per cent of global clinical trial market in the country.

“We should follow what is best in the world. Our regulations are driven by Supreme Court rather than science and its essence. The regulatory system needs to be strengthened and needs to incorporate ways and mechanisms to find black sheeps and rouges in the clinical trials. Particularly, there is a need for incorporating right compensation for the subjects on trial. Transparent regulatory system should evolve and each and every data pertaining to the subjects should be made available and should not give scope for any manipulation,” said the CFO.

In the wake of international regulators like US FDA and EU issuing warnings and blacklisting the pharmaceutical units in India, it is high time that Indian regulatory system needs to be strengthened and should bring in more regulatory reforms in the drug control administration on the lines of international standards. 

Neuroscientists identify brain mechanisms that predict generosity in children

University of Chicago developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes.
There are many sorts of prosocial behaviors. Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish. Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and Jason Cowell, a postdoctoral scholar in Decety's Child NeuroSuite lab, wanted to find out how young children's brains evaluate whether to share something with others out of generosity. In this study, generosity was used as a proxy for moral behavior. The paper is published online by Current Biology and will appear in the Jan. 5, 2015 issue.
"We know that generosity in children increases as they get older," said Decety. He added that neuroscientists have not yet examined the mechanisms that guide the increase in generosity. "The results of this study demonstrate that children exhibit both distinct early automatic and later more controlled patterns of neural responses when viewing scenarios showing helping and harmful behaviors. It's that later more controlled neural response that is predictive of generosity."
The study included recording brain waves by EEG and eye tracking of 57 children, ages three to five, while they viewed short animations depicting prosocial and antisocial behaviors of cartoon-like characters helping or hurting each other. Following that testing, the children played a modified version of a scenario called the "dictator game." The children were given ten stickers and were told that the stickers were theirs to keep. They were then asked if they wanted to share any of their stickers with an anonymous child who was to come to the lab later that day.
The children had two boxes, one for themselves and one for the anonymous child. In an effort to prevent bias, the experimenter turned around while the child decided whether or how much to share. On average, the children shared fewer than two stickers (1.78 out of 10) with the anonymous child. There was no significant difference in sharing behavior by gender or age. The authors also found that the nature of the animations the children watched at the outset could influence the children's likelihood of behaving in a generous way.
The study shows how young children's brains process moral situations presented in these scenarios and the direct link to actual prosocial behavior in the act of generosity by sharing the stickers. "The results shed light on the theory of moral development by documenting the respective contribution of automatic and cognitive neural processes underpinning moral behavior in children," Decety concluded in the paper.
The developmental scientists found evidence from the EEG that the children exhibited early automatic responses to morally laden stimuli (the scenarios) and then reappraised the same stimuli in a more controlled manner, building to produce implicit moral evaluations.
"This is the first neuro-developmental study of moral sensitivity that directly links implicit moral evaluations and actual moral behavior, and identifies the specific neuro markers of each," said Decety. "These findings provide an interesting idea that by encouraging children to reflect upon the moral behavior of others, we may be able to foster sharing and generosity in them." Decety added that these findings show that, contrary to several predominant theories of morality, while gut reactions to the behavior of others do exist, they are not associated with one's own moral behavior, as in how generous the children were with their stickers.
Decety and Cowell are now conducting similar work with even younger children, ages 12 to 24 months, to look at when these neural markers for generosity emerge.

Lost memories might be able to be restored, new UCLA study indicates

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored. The findings offer some hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
For decades, most neuroscientists have believed that memories are stored at the synapses -- the connections between brain cells, or neurons -- which are destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. The new study provides evidence contradicting the idea that long-term memory is stored at synapses.
IMAGE"Long-term memory is not stored at the synapse," said David Glanzman, a senior author of the study, and a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology. "That's a radical idea, but that's where the evidence leads. The nervous system appears to be able to regenerate lost synaptic connections. If you can restore the synaptic connections, the memory will come back. It won't be easy, but I believe it's possible."
The findings were published recently in eLife, a highly regarded open-access online science journal.
Glanzman's research team studies a type of marine snail called Aplysia to understand the animal's learning and memory. The Aplysia displays a defensive response to protect its gill from potential harm, and the researchers are especially interested in its withdrawal reflex and the sensory and motor neurons that produce it.
They enhanced the snail's withdrawal reflex by giving it several mild electrical shocks on its tail. The enhancement lasts for days after a series of electrical shocks, which indicates the snail's long-term memory. Glanzman explained that the shock causes the hormone serotonin to be released in the snail's central nervous system.
Long-term memory is a function of the growth of new synaptic connections caused by the serotonin, said Glanzman, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute. As long-term memories are formed, the brain creates new proteins that are involved in making new synapses. If that process is disrupted -- for example by a concussion or other injury -- the proteins may not be synthesized and long-term memories cannot form. (This is why people cannot remember what happened moments before a concussion.)
"If you train an animal on a task, inhibit its ability to produce proteins immediately after training, and then test it 24 hours later, the animal doesn't remember the training," Glanzman said. "However, if you train an animal, wait 24 hours, and then inject a protein synthesis inhibitor in its brain, the animal shows perfectly good memory 24 hours later. In other words, once memories are formed, if you temporarily disrupt protein synthesis, it doesn't affect long-term memory. That's true in the Aplysia and in human's brains." (This explains why people's older memories typically survive following a concussion.)
Glanzman's team found the same mechanism held true when studying the snail's neurons in a Petri dish. The researchers placed the sensory and motor neurons that mediate the snail's withdrawal reflex in a Petri dish, where the neurons re-formed the synaptic connections that existed when the neurons were inside the snail's body. When serotonin was added to the dish, new synaptic connections formed between the sensory and motor neurons. But if the addition of serotonin was immediately followed by the addition of a substance that inhibits protein synthesis, the new synaptic growth was blocked; long-term memory could not be formed.
The researchers also wanted to understand whether synapses disappeared when memories did. To find out, they counted the number of synapses in the dish and then, 24 hours later, added a protein synthesis inhibitor. One day later, they re-counted the synapses.
What they found was that new synapses had grown and the synaptic connections between the neurons had been strengthened; late treatment with the protein synthesis inhibitor did not disrupt the long-term memory. The phenomenon is extremely similar to what happens in the snail's nervous system during this type of simple learning, Glanzman said.
Next, the scientists added serotonin to a Petri dish containing a sensory neuron and motor neuron, waited 24 hours, and then added another brief pulse of serotonin -- which served to remind the neurons of the original training -- and immediately afterward add the protein synthesis inhibitor. This time, they found that synaptic growth and memory were erased. When they re-counted the synapses, they found that the number had reset to the number before the training, Glanzman said. This suggests that the "reminder" pulse of serotonin triggered a new round of memory consolidation, and that inhibiting protein synthesis during this "reconsolidation" erased the memory in the neurons.
If the prevailing wisdom were true -- that memories are stored in the synapses -- the researchers should have found that the lost synapses were the same ones that had grown in response to the serotonin. But that's not what happened: Instead, they found that some of the new synapses were still present and some were gone, and that some of the original ones were gone, too.
Glanzman said there was no obvious pattern to which synapses stayed and which disappeared, which implied that memory is not stored in synapses.
When the scientists repeated the experiment in the snail, and then gave the animal a modest number of tail shocks -- which do not produce long-term memory in a naive snail -- the memory they thought had been completely erased returned. This implies that synaptic connections that were lost were apparently restored.
"That suggests that the memory is not in the synapses but somewhere else," Glanzman said. "We think it's in the nucleus of the neurons. We haven't proved that, though."
Glanzman said the research could have significant implications for people with Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, just because the disease is known to destroy synapses in the brain doesn't mean that memories are destroyed.
"As long as the neurons are still alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer's," he said.
Glanzman added that in the later stages of the disease, neurons die, which likely means that the memories cannot be recovered.
The cellular and molecular processes seem to be very similar between the marine snail and humans, even though the snail has approximately 20,000 neurons and humans have about 1 trillion. Neurons each have several thousand synapses.
Glanzman used to believe that traumatic memories could be erased but he has changed his mind. He now believes that, because memories are stored in the nucleus, it may be much more difficult to modify them. He will continue to study how the marine snail's memories are restored and how synapses re-grow.
Co-authors of the study include Shanping Chen, Diancai Cai and Kaycey Pearce, research associates in Glanzman's laboratory.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.
Almost all the processes that are involved in memory in the snail also have been shown to be involved in memory in the brains of mammals, Glanzman said.
In a 1997 study published in the journal Science, Glanzman and colleagues identified a cellular mechanism in the Aplysia that plays an important role in learning and memory. A protein called N-methyl D-aspartate, or NMDA, receptor enhances the strength of synaptic connections in the nervous system and plays a vital role in memory and in certain kinds of learning in the mammalian brain as well. Glanzman's demonstration that the NMDA receptor plays a critical role in learning in a simple animal like the marine snail was entirely unexpected at the time.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Study supports the theory that men are idiots

Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. Males are more likely to be admitted to an emergency department after accidential injuries, more likely to be admitted with a sporting injury, and more likely to be involved in a fatal road traffic collision.
However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. So researchers in north east England decided to test "male idiot theory" (MIT) that many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.
They reviewed data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995 to 2014), noting the sex of the winner. To qualify, nominees must improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race using astonishingly stupid methods.
Worthy candidates include a man stealing a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death before the train was able to stop; and the terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage stamps and who, on its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.
Of the 413 Darwin Award nominations, 332 were independently verified and confirmed by the Darwin Awards Committee. Of these, 14 were shared by male and female nominees - usually overly adventurous couples in compromising positions - leaving 318 valid cases for statistical testing.
Of these 318 cases, 282 Darwin Awards were awarded to males, and just 36 awards given to females. Males thus made up 88.7% of Darwin Award winners, and this sex difference is highly statistically significant, say the authors.
This finding is entirely consistent with male idiot theory (MIT) and supports the hypothesis that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.
However, this study has limitations, add the authors. For example, women may be more likely to nominate men for a Darwin Award or the sex difference may reflect differences in alcohol use between men and women.
Despite this, it is puzzling that males are willing to take such unnecessary risks - simply as a rite of passage, in pursuit of male social esteem, or solely in exchange for "bragging rights," say the authors.
They believe male idiot theory deserves further investigation, and, "with the festive season upon us, we intend to follow up with observational field studies and an experimental study - males and females, with and without alcohol - in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting," they conclude.

Migraine May Double Risk for Facial Paralysis

Bell's palsy, a nervous system condition that causes facial paralysis, is more likely to occur in people with migraine headache, reveals a new study published in the December 17, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.


Bell's palsy affects between 11 and 40 per 100,000 people each year. Most people with Bell's palsy recover completely. Headaches are the most common disorder of the nervous system and affect about 12 percent of the US population. 

"This is a very new association between migraine and Bell's palsy," said study author Shuu-Jiun Wang, MD, with National Yang-Ming University and Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan. "Our study also suggests that these two conditions may share a common underlying link." 

For the study, two groups of 136,704 people ages 18 and older, one group with migraine and one without, were followed for an average of three years. During that time, 671 people in the migraine group and 365 of the non-migraine group were newly diagnosed with Bell's palsy. People with migraine were twice as likely to develop Bell's palsy even after researchers accounted for other factors that could increase the risk of the condition, such as sex, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

"Infection, inflammation or heart and vascular problems could be shared causes for these diseases," Wang said. "If a common link is identified and confirmed, more research may lead to better treatments for both conditions." 

The study was supported by the National Science Council of Taiwan, the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, National Yang-Ming University and the Taiwan Ministry of Education. 


Fruits to Help Lower Blood Pressure

The high potassium and low sodium in some fruits can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Selection of right fruits can keep your blood pressure under control.

A systolic pressure (top reading) of 140 or more and/or a diastolic pressure (bottom reading) of 90 or more indicate that you have high blood pressure. The good news is you that don’t always have to go for prescription medicine to lower your blood pressure. 

Trying lifestyle changes can suit you if you have borderline or moderate hypertension. However do consult your doctor, he or she will check your pressure and inform you if these changes can substitute or lower the medication dose for your hypertension. The recommended changes includes:
  • Watch your waistline. Shed that extra flab.
  •  Exercise regularly. Even moderate physical activity such as brisk walking and bicycling or gardening can help control your blood pressure.
  • Drink alcohol only occasionally and moderately
  • Quit smoking.


  • Reduce sodium in your diet. Avoid processed or fried foods. Aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day if you have high blood pressure.
  •  Boost your potassium intake

Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.


How does Potassium Help Reduce Blood Pressure?

Potassium is a very important mineral for the proper functioning of all cells of our body. Along with sodium, calcium and magnesium, potassium helps maintain the electrolyte balance of the body. Too much salt or sodium causes water retention in the body. This increases the blood volume and puts pressure on the artery walls resulting in high blood pressure. 

Again, low potassium levels and high sodium levels, makes the heart and blood vessels to work harder and therefore increase pressure on the walls. So, keeping the right sodium–potassium balance is important for proper functioning of the body. Increasing the dietary consumption of potassium can help lower blood pressure.

Since our diet is normally high in sodium, it is important that we increase the intake of potassium. And if you have high blood pressure, you need to decrease the intake of sodium and increase the intake of potassium to get better effects. 

Fruits that Lower Blood Pressure

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower high blood pressure. The DASH diet plan is high in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. It is also high in potassium, calcium and magnesium which are useful in controlling high blood pressure.

Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) indicated that higher dietary potassium intakes were associated with significantly lower blood pressures. The DASH trial provided further support for the beneficial effects of a potassium-rich diet on blood pressure. According to them, consumption of a diet including 8.5 servings/day of fruits and vegetables and 4,100 mg/day of potassium lowered blood pressure by an average of 2.8 /1.1 mm Hg (systolic BP/diastolic BP) in people with normal blood pressure and by an average of 7.2 /2.8 mm Hg in people with hypertension. Increasing dietary calcium intake by 800 mg/day in the DASH trial lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure still further.

Since fruits contain many essential nutrients, vitamins and anti-oxidants besides potassium, it is one of the best types of food that can help lower your blood pressure. Here are some fruits that are high in potassium content and which help lower blood pressure.
Apricot: Apricot is a very good source of potassium and vitamin A. With 2202 mg (63 percent DV) of potassium in a cup (119 g of cubes) of dehydrated apricot, it is perhaps one of the best foods that have potassium in them. It is very low in sodium content as well as saturated fat and cholesterol. 

Avocado: Avocado is rich in assortment of vitamins and high in monounsaturated fat and potassium. It contains a unique fatty alcohol, called avocadene, which has a curative property for a number of ailments including high blood pressure. One cup (150 g of cubes) contains 727 mg of potassium (21 percent of the daily recommended value for potassium) and only 10.5 mg of sodium (zero percent of the daily recommended value [DV]). Avocado is very low in cholesterol and it is a good source of dietary fiber.

Banana: Bananais a versatile fruit – eat a whole banana as a snack or add sliced banana to your morning cereal or make a fruit salad with banana as one of the ingredients. Whatever way you eat it, a medium sized banana will provide 422 mg of potassium and 17 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin C. With 2.83 g of dietary fiber, this fruit will help you stay full for longer periods of time.

Cantaloupe: Cantaloupe is a fruit that belongs to the melon family. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. A cup of cubed cantaloupe (160 g) contains 494.5 mg of potassium 14.1 percent daily recommended value for potassium. Remember to wash the outside of the cantaloupe before cutting it since bacteria can grow on its surface. Refrigerate if you are not going to consume it immediately.

Oranges and Lemons: Citrus fruits are best known for their high vitamin C content. Oranges are high in nutrition and low in calories. With a potassium content of 326 mg and no sodium, this is one of the best fruits that lower blood pressure. Limes, too, are a good source of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and folate. They contain 2.8 g of dietary fiber. 

Grapefruit: This fruit has a distinctive, tangy taste. Select ripe grapefruits for best flavor and quality. The bioflavonoids present in grapefruit and other citrus fruits not only help lower blood pressure but also help lower cholesterol levels. Half a grapefruit (123 g) contains 166 mg of potassium and provides 5 percent of daily recommended value for potassium.

Melons: Melon is a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin and potassium. One cup of frozen melon balls (173 g) 484 mg of potassium and provides 14 percent of daily recommended value for potassium. It is also a good source of magnesium, folate and vitamin B6.

Prune: Prunes are actually the dried version of European plums. They are sweet in taste and have a sticky chewy texture. One cup of pitted prunes (174 g) contains 1274 mg of potassium and almost no sodium. Moreover, prune is a rich source of dietary fiber. A quarter cup of prunes supply 12.1 percent of the daily value for fiber. The soluble fiber promotes a sense of satisfied fullness after a meal as it slows down the digestive process and thus helps with weight loss. So if you have high blood pressure and are overweight too, prunes may be the right fruit for you.

In addition to these fruits, you can also eat raisins, dates, figs and molasses. They too contain a high amount of potassium. According to the NIH, dried fruits normally contain more potassium than fresh versions.

The following chart will help you plan your menu for fruit intake recommended in the DASH diet. 

Food GroupsServings for a 2000 calorie daily dietServings for a 1600 calorie daily dietExamples of 1 Serving
Fruits4-5 a day4 a dayHalf Cup (4 ounce) 100 percent fruit juice
1 medium fruit
Half cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
One-fourth cup dried fruit


Fruits Help you Save Calories

If you are obese or overweight and have high blood pressure, substituting some cereals or protein food can help you save calories. For example:
  •  Eating a medium sized apple instead of four shortbread cookies can save you 80 calories.
  • Eating one-fourth cup of dried apricots instead of a 2-ounce bag of pork rinds can save you 230 calories.
The following fruits are low in calories and help you lower blood pressure as well.

Calories in Fruits per 100 grams
Kiwi Fruit45
Orange Juice (100 ml)47
Water Melon26

Tips to Eating Fruits
  • Potassium leaches out into the water during cooking. So the best way to get potassium is through fruits.
  • Keep the fruit out on the counter or in the front of the fridge. That way you’ll be more likely to notice it and eat it.
  • Choose color and variety in fruits. Go for yellow, green, orange and red fruits.
  • Fruits salads are an interesting way to eat fruits.
  • Get some fruits at snack time too.
  • Go for variety in fruits. Try some new fruits.
  • Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. And fruits are a great source of potassium.


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