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Tue, 22 May 2018
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Bomb

Neural Coding: It's only a game of chance

The validity of a leading theory that has held a glimmer of hope for unraveling the intricacies of the brain has just been called into question. Dr. Ilan Lampl of the Weizmann Institute of Science's Neurobiology Department has produced convincing evidence to the contrary. His findings recently appeared in the journal Neuron.

Cells in the central nervous system tend to communicate with each other via a wave of electrical signals that travel along neurons. The question is: How does the brain translate this information to allow us to perceive and understand the world before us?

It is widely believed that these electrical signals generate spiked patterns that encode different types of cognitive information. According to the theory, the brain is able to discriminate between, say, a chair and a table because each of them will generate a distinct sequence of patterns within the neural system that the brain then interprets. Upon repeated presentation of that object, its pattern is reproduced in a precise and controlled manner. Previous experiments had demonstrated repeating patterns lasting up to one second in duration.

Health

Arthritis pain, the brain and the role of emotions

Arthritis pain is processed in brain areas concerned with emotions and fear, finds study, indicating target for pain-relieving therapies.

How does the brain process the experience of pain? Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now know the answer lies in a network of brain structures called the pain matrix. This matrix contains two parallel systems. The medial pain system processes the emotional aspects of pain, including fear and stress, while the lateral system processes the physical sensations-pain's intensity, location, and duration.

Marked by morning stiffness, joint aches, and flare-ups, the pain of arthritis tends to be acute and recurrent, in contrast to many chronic pain conditions. Arthritis pain therefore makes an ideal model for comparing common clinical pain with experimental pain. Inspired by this observation, researchers at University of Manchester Rheumatic Diseases Centre in the United Kingdom conducted the first study to compare directly the brain areas involved in processing arthritis pain and experimental pain in a group of patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Their results, published in the April 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis), shed light on the role of emotions in how patients feel arthritis pain.

Clock

Mouse study suggests that with HRT, timing counts

An estrogen study in mice suggests that hormone replacement therapy may benefit women if started right at the time of menopause, researchers reported on Monday.

While the researchers stress that more studies need to be done in women, they said their findings offer hope to women who want to safely relieve the symptoms of menopause.

"When you treat animals immediately with estradiol (a form of estrogen) therapy, it protects the brain against injury due to stroke and this correlates with an ability of estradiol to suppress the inflammatory response. It is a very potent anti-inflammatory agent," said Dr. Phyllis Wise of the University of Washington in Seattle, who led the study.

Health

Newly Released Canadian Data Links Vaccines with Pervasive Developmental Disorder

National Autism Association calls 2006 Pediatrics study fatally flawed

Attention

Women of All Sizes Feel Badly about their Bodies after Seeing Models

The rail-thin blonde bombshell on the cover of a magazine makes all women feel badly about their own bodies despite the size, shape, height or age of the viewers. A new University of Missouri-Columbia study found that all women were equally and negatively affected after viewing pictures of models in magazine ads for just three minutes.

"Surprisingly, we found that weight was not a factor. Viewing these pictures was just bad for everyone," said Laurie Mintz, associate professor of education, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. "It had been thought that women who are heavier feel worse than a thinner woman after viewing pictures of the thin ideal in the mass media. The study results do not support that theory."

The study measured how 81 women felt about themselves, from their body weight to their hair, and then exposed some of them to neutral images, while others viewed models in magazine ads for one to three minutes. The women were evaluated after seeing the images, and in all cases, the women who viewed the models reported a drop in their level of satisfaction with their own bodies.

Magic Wand

Study shows many mental health needs go unmet

Psychiatrists' first large-scale assessment of the general population shows nearly 30 percent need mental health care and about one-third of them get it.

The study focused on Baltimore, where a team of psychiatrists interviewed 816 people between 1993 and 1999.

They found the greatest need was treatment of alcohol dependence, nearly 14 percent, and major depression, nearly 11 percent.

"There are a lot of people who need psychiatric care who aren't getting any," says Dr. Erick Messias, psychiatrist at the Medical College of Georgia and lead author on the study in the March issue of Psychiatric Services. "There is a constellation of factors keeping people away from that care. This translates into people suffering for years, when there is a solution."

Wolf

The shady past of wolves in sheep's cloning

The world's first cloned wolves have been created in South Korea, using the same technique that enabled British scientists to create Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal.

The wolves are the work of a team once led by Woo Suk Hwang, the disgraced South Korean scientist who faked human stem-cell research. Although the two female wolves were born in October 2005, veterinary scientists at Seoul National University announced their achievement only yesterday after independent DNA tests finally verified their claims.

Professor Byung Chun Lee, who led the group, was a close colleague of Professor Hwang, who falsely claimed to have cloned human embryos and derived stem cells. Professor Lee was disciplined by his university and is still facing fraud charges over the affair. Professor Hwang was sacked, and has been accused of fraud, embezzlement and breaches of bioethics laws. The wolf cloning project was started before Professor Hwang's faked work came to light, and he is still named as an author on a paper that will report the success in Cloning and Stem Cells.

Magic Wand

The No Shampoo challenge

The "challenge" is an experiment I'm conducting on my radio show, using myself as a human guinea pig. A few weeks back I interviewed the British writer and former Tory MP Matthew Parris. Parris hasn't washed his hair with shampoo for 15 years. He believes the whole shampoo industry is an expensive hoax. If you stop using shampoo, your hair will become increasingly lank, lifeless and greasy for about six weeks, after which it will fight back and achieve its own natural balance. Or so he claims.

Health

Obese Aussies get big ambulances

Australia's obesity crisis has forced health officials to revamp their fleet of ambulances to cope with a sharp rise in overweight patients.

Super-sized vehicles have been introduced and new air ambulances will be remodelled to carry heavier people.

Studies estimate that 67% of Australian men and over half of all women aged over 25 are overweight or obese.

Bulb

Our big brain still prefers to do one thing at a time

Confident multi-taskers of the world, could we have your attention?

Think you can juggle phone calls, e-mail, instant messages and computer work to get more done in a time-starved world?

Several research reports, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multi-tasking. The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest many people would be wise to curb their multi-tasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

These experts have some basic advice. Check e-mail messages once an hour, at most. Listening to soothing background music while studying may improve concentration. But other distractions - most songs with lyrics, instant messaging, television shows - hamper performance. Driving while talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.