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Health

Missing facial muscles make some look glum

Scientists may have discovered the reason why some people always look glum.

Limited or very specific facial expressions could be explained by the fact that some humans have fewer muscles in their face than others, research from the University of Portsmouth suggests.

The findings could perhaps explain why certain people, such as the character Victor Meldrew in the television series One Foot in The Grave, seem to have a permanent scowl.
Health

Mum's Vitamin D levels affect baby's dental health

Babies born to women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may be at increased risk for tooth enamel defects and early childhood tooth decay, a Canadian study finds.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba analysed the vitamin D levels of 206 women in their second trimester of pregnancy and found only 21 (10.5 per cent) of the women had adequate vitamin D levels. The women's levels of vitamin D were related to the frequency of milk consumption and prenatal vitamin use.
Health

4 out of 5 sunscreens inadequate, study finds

When temperatures soar past the century mark around the Bay Area, people head for the beach with all of the usual gear in tow. Think towels, Frisbees, coolers, umbrellas. And sunscreen.

Oceans of it.

Americans will spend more than $1.1 billion on sun protection products this year, a market that's grown by an annual rate of 10 percent since 2004.

But is it worth it?
Bulb

Scientists learn how food affects the brain

In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.

"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain. "Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging."

Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food's affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the July issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience and are available online here.
Bulb

Early-life Nutrition May Be Associated With Adult Intellectual Functioning

Adults who had improved nutrition in early childhood may score better on intellectual tests, regardless of the number of years they attended school, according to a new article.

"Schooling is a key component of the development of literacy, reading comprehension and cognitive functioning, and thus of human capital," the authors write as background information in the article. Research also suggests that poor nutrition in early life is associated with poor performance on cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) tests in adulthood. "Therefore, both nutrition and early-childhood intellectual enrichment are likely to be important determinants of intellectual functioning in adulthood."
Pills

US: Epilepsy drugs targeted for black box suicide warning

Federal regulators want the makers of epilepsy drugs to add a black box warning to their labels about their association with suicidal thoughts and behavior. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is set to ask an outside advisory panel for its recommendations on the proposed black box at a meeting this Thursday.
Bulb

A baby's smile is a natural high

The baby's smile that gladdens a mother's heart also lights up the reward centers of her brain, said Baylor College of Medicine researchers in a report that appears in the journal Pediatrics today.

The finding could help scientists figure out the special mother-infant bond and how it sometimes go wrong, said Dr. Lane Strathearn, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and Texas Children's Hospital and a research associate in BCM's Human Neuroimaging Laboratory.

"The relationship between mothers and infants is critical for child development," said Strathearn. "For whatever reason, in some cases, that relationship doesn't develop normally. Neglect and abuse can result, with devastating effects on a child's development."
Bulb

Brain chemical shown to induce both desire and dread: Dopamine's opposing effects separated by a few millimeters in the brain

The chemical dopamine induces both desire and dread, according to new animal research in the July 9 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Although dopamine is well known to motivate animals and people to seek positive rewards, the study indicates that it also can promote negative feelings like fear. The finding may help explain why dopamine dysfunction is implicated not only in drug addiction, which involves excessive desire, but in schizophrenia and some phobias, which involve excessive fear.

"This study changes our thinking about what dopamine does," said Howard Fields, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, an expert unaffiliated with the study. "There is a huge body of evidence out there to support the idea that dopamine mediates positive effects, like reward, happiness, and pleasure. This study says, it does do that, but it can also promote negative behaviors through actions in an adjacent brain area," Fields said.

Kent Berridge, PhD, and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, identified dopamine's dual effect on the nucleus accumbens, a brain region that motivates people and animals to seek out pleasurable rewards like food, sex, or drugs, but is also involved in fear. They found that inhibiting dopamine's normal function prevented the nucleus accumbens neurons from inducing both rewarding and fearful behaviors, suggesting that dopamine is important in both.
Wine

Study ties ending moderate drinking to depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons

Scientific evidence has long suggested that moderate drinking offers some protection against heart disease, certain types of stroke and some forms of cancer.

But new research shows that stopping drinking - including at moderate levels - may lead to health problems including depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons, a process called neurogenesis.

The findings from the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill appear online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

"Our research in an animal model establishes a causal link between abstinence from alcohol drinking and depression," said study senior author Clyde W. Hodge, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and pharmacology in the UNC School of Medicine. "In mice that voluntarily drank alcohol for 28 days, depression-like behavior was evident 14 days after termination of alcohol drinking. This suggests that people who stop drinking may experience negative mood states days or weeks after the alcohol has cleared their systems,"
Syringe

New vaccine sneaks into body, then self-destructs

A new type of vaccine that sneaks into the body and then self-destructs -- all without needles -- may offer a new way to protect against a range of diseases, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
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