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Magic Wand

Adult brain can change, study confirms

It is well established that a child's brain has a remarkable capacity for change, but controversy continues about the extent to which such plasticity exists in the adult human primary sensory cortex.

Now, neuroscientists from MIT and Johns Hopkins University have used converging evidence from brain imaging and behavioral studies to show that the adult visual cortex does indeed reorganize--and that the change affects visual perception. The study appears online Sept. 5 in an advance publication of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The authors believe that as scientists find ways to use this adaptive ability, the work could have relevance to topics ranging from learning to designing interventions for improving recovery following stroke, brain injury, or visual disorders.

Attention

Vocal cord dysfunction may be caused by work

Researchers from the UAB and the Vall d'Hebron Hospital have diagnosed two patients affected with vocal cord dysfunction, which causes coughing and difficulty in breathing due to irritating agents that are breathed in at the workplace. Until now, medical literature had only described two cases of patients with occupational vocal dysfunction.

Vocal cord dysfunction is an illness produced by a closure in the vocal cords when inhaling. Under normal conditions, the vocal cords would be open. It is a relatively frequent illness that is often mistaken for bronchial asthma given patients' symptoms, such as coughing, sensation of choking, wheezing, hoarseness and difficulties in breathing. Sometimes the conditions are so severe that patients must be intubated or even admitted to an intensive care unit. The diagnosis of this dysfunction is based on observing the flattening of the inspiratory limb in the flow-volume curve and observing the closure of the vocal cords with a laryngoscope.

Attention

New Study Says Women's Health Much More at Risk from Sleep Deprivation

New research led by researchers at Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick reveals that women's health is much more at risk from sleep deprivation than men's.

The researchers looked at men and women sleeping less than or equal 5 hours a night to see if their risk of having hypertension was any higher than men and women getting the recommended 7 hours or more of sleep a night. Among other problems increased hypertension does increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Some previous studies have indicated that sleep deprivation is also associated with an increased risk of hypertension. However that research was based on self-reported diagnosis of hypertension, and had no gender-specific analysis.

Cut

Shocking! Chinese doctors plan to operate on human pin-cushion

Doctors have discovered 26 needles embedded in the body of a woman in China, believed to have been inserted not long after she was born by grandparents upset she was not a boy, state media said Friday.

The sewing needles were found in an X-ray after the 29-year-old, Luo Cuifen, went to a hospital in Yunnan province complaining of blood in her urine, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

Doctors plan to operate to remove as many of the needles as they can, it said, but face "great difficulties" as the images show several had penetrated vital organs including her lungs, liver, bladder, small intestine and kidneys.

Red Flag

CDC: Suicide Rate Among U.S. Girls Soars

ATLANTA - The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can't fully explain.

Red Flag

Chickens culled in southern Russia after bird flu outbreak

About 22,000 birds have been culled at a poultry farm in south Russia's Krasnodar Territory following a bird flu outbreak, local emergency services said Wednesday.

Specialists from the local veterinary watchdog have launched a set of measures to contain the spread in the Bryukhovetsky District, including health checks, thermal processing of seeds, and scaring wild birds away from farms. Revaccination of domestic birds in the region is underway.

Magic Wand

Having right timing 'connections' in brain is key to overcoming dyslexia

Using new software developed to investigate how the brains of dyslexic children are organized, University of Washington researchers have found that key areas for language and working memory involved in reading are connected differently in dyslexics than in children who are good readers and spellers.

However, once the children with dyslexia received a three-week instructional program, their patterns of functional brain connectivity normalized and were similar to those of good readers when deciding if sounds went with groups of letters in words.

"Some brain regions are too strongly connected functionally in children with dyslexia when they are deciding which sounds go with which letters," said Todd Richards, a UW neuroimaging scientist and lead author of a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Neurolinguistics. "We had hints in previous studies that the ability to decode novel words improves when a specific brain region in the right hemisphere decreases in activation. This study suggests that the deactivation may result in a disconnection in time from the comparable region in the left hemisphere, which in turn leads to improved reading. Reading requires sequential as well as simultaneous processes."

Richards and co-author Virginia Berninger, a neuropsychologist, said temporal connectivity, or the ability of different parts of the brain to "talk" with each other at the same time or in sequence, is a key in overcoming dyslexia. Berninger, who directs the UW's Learning Disabilities Center, compared dyslexia to an orchestra playing with an ineffective conductor who does not keep all the musicians playing in synchrony with each other.

Health

Study identifies key player in the body's immune response to chronic stress

Osteopontin (OPN), a protein molecule involved in many different cellular processes, plays a significant role in immune deficiency and organ atrophy following chronic physiological stress, resulting in increased susceptibility to illness. These findings appear in the September 4th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is supported by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), the Busch Biomedical Research Grant, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Rutgers Technology Commercialization Fund. Authors on the paper include Dr. Yufang Shi, investigator on NSBRI's Radiation Effects Team and professor of molecular genetics, microbiology and immunology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. David T. Denhardt, one of the discoverers of OPN, professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and Kathryn X. Wang, graduate student in the Rutgers Graduate Program in Cell and Developmental Biology.

Attention

Study documents rapid increase in youth bipolar disorder diagnoses

The estimated number of youth with office visits with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder substantially increased between 1994 and 2003, while adult visits with a bipolar disorder diagnoses appeared to almost double, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness that typically involves periods of mania (an abnormally elevated mood) and depression. "Although bipolar disorder may have its onset during childhood, little is known about national trends in the diagnosis and management of bipolar disorder in young people," the authors write as background information in the article.

Carmen Moreno, M.D., of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon, Servicio de Psiquiatria, Madrid, Spain, and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of office-based physicians designed to represent all such clinicians in the United States. The physicians provided information about demographic, clinical and treatment aspects of each patient visit for a one-week time period. The researchers compared the rate of growth in bipolar disorder diagnoses among individuals age 19 and under to that of individuals age 20 and older from 1994 to 1995 through 2002 to 2003. They also compared demographic information and prescribed treatments between the two groups during the years 1999 to 2003.

Comment: Due to massive and unfounded prescription of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants, we tend to conclude that this increase is a result of deliberate overdiagnosis.


Coffee

UI professor identifies new eating disorder, seeks study participants

A University of Iowa professor is making a case for a new eating disorder she calls purging disorder.

The disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa in that both syndromes involve eating, then trying to compensate for the calories. What sets the disorders apart is the amount of food consumed and the way people compensate for what they eat. Women with purging disorder eat normal or even small amounts of food and then purge, often by vomiting. Women with bulimia have large, out-of-control binge eating episodes followed by purging, fasting or excessive exercise.

"Purging disorder is new in the sense that it has not been officially recognized as a unique condition in the classification of eating disorders," said Pamela Keel, associate professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, "But it's not a new problem. Women were struggling with purging disorder long before we began studying it."

In a paper published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Keel shares the results of a study indicating that purging disorder is a significant problem in women that is distinct from bulimia.