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Mon, 06 Apr 2020
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Health

Old memory traces in brain may trigger chronic pain

Why do so many people continue to suffer from life-altering, chronic pain long after their injuries have actually healed"

The definitive answer -- and an effective treatment -- has long eluded scientists. Traditional analgesic drugs, such as aspirin and morphine derivatives, haven't worked very well.

A Northwestern University researcher has found a key source of chronic pain appears to be an old memory trace that essentially gets stuck in the prefrontal cortex, the site of emotion and learning. The brain seems to remember the injury as if it were fresh and can't forget it.

With new understanding of the pain source, Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology, and of anesthesiology, at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, has identified a drug that controls persistent nerve pain by targeting the part of the brain that experiences the emotional suffering of pain. The drug is D-Cycloserine, which has been used to treat phobic behavior over the past decade.

In animal studies, D-Cycloserine appeared to significantly diminish the emotional suffering from pain as well as reduce the sensitivity of the formerly injured site. It also controlled nerve pain resulting from chemotherapy, noted Apkarian, who is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.

Attention

Shocking!!! Smokers who won't quit denied surgery

Smokers could be denied routine operations on the NHS unless they quit a month before surgery.

Health managers are considering the move after research showed that smokers take longer to recover from surgery and are more prone to hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

Although emergency surgery would not be affected, smokers awaiting routine operations such as hip and knee replacements could be refused treatment until they kick the habit.

The proposals, which have been drawn up by Leicester City West Primary Care Trust, could be extended to other areas.

The Leicester plans would involve smokers being given counselling and nicotine patches to help them stop. But the patients would have to give a blood sample to prove they had quit before being put on the waiting list and admitted for elective non-emergency surgery.

Health

Doctors achieve medical marvel by converting a man's right hand into his left

Spanish doctors have converted a man's right hand into his left, transplanting it onto the left arm and changing the place of the thumb, representatives of the medical team said on Monday in the eastern city of Valencia.

The 63-year-old man had lost his left hand in an accident four decades ago.

Three years ago, he suffered a stroke which made him unable to use the right side of his body.

Bulb

Cognitive lock-in: Why you can't teach an old dog new tricks

The ability to learn from experience is of central importance to human existence. It allows us to acquire many of the skills we need to complete a wide variety of complicated, multi-step tasks in an efficient manner. It also creates habit - a critical, if often overlooked factor in the product and service choices consumers make. An important new study from the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrates how this "cognitive lock-in" can cause us to remain loyal to a product, even if objectively better alternatives exist.

"We find that consumers typically are not aware that this mechanism is a powerful determinant of the choices they make," write Kyle B. Murray (University of Western Ontario) and Gerald Häubl (University of Alberta).

Murray and Häubl examine a theory of cognitive lock-in centered around the notion of skill-based habits of use, that is, how using or purchasing a product becomes easier with repetition. In a series of experiments, they find that people are more influenced by their perceptions of ease-of-use rather than how objectively easy a product is to use.

Health

At risk: vaccines; Lawyers for 4,800 autistic children will argue that vaccines caused autism

How a legal case could cripple one of modern medicine's greatest achievements

On June 11, in an unprecedented action before a federal claims court, lawyers for 4,800 autistic children will argue that vaccines caused autism. If successful, these claims could exhaust the pool of money currently set aside to compensate children who have been hurt by vaccines. Further, lawyers will likely take their claims that vaccines cause autism to civil court, where awards could be enormous. "I don't want to see the drug companies go out of business," said David Kirby, author of the book "Evidence of Harm," speaking on Imus in the Morning in April 2005. But "we are looking at trillions and trillions of dollars of care for these people."

Bulb

New insights into the neural basis of anxiety

Researchers identify a neural circuit that makes mice perceive ambiguous situations as threatening

People who suffer from anxiety tend to interpret ambiguous situations, situations that could potentially be dangerous but not necessarily so, as threatening. Researchers from the Mouse Biology Unit of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Italy have now uncovered the neural basis for such anxiety behaviour in mice. In the current issue of Nature Neuroscience they report that a receptor for the messenger serotonin and a neural circuit involving a brain region called the hippocampus play crucial roles in mediating fear responses in ambiguous situations.

A mouse that has learned that a certain cue, for example a tone, is always followed by an electrical shock comes to associate the two and freezes with fear whenever it hears the tone even if the shock is not delivered. But in real life the situation is not always so clear; a stimulus will only sometimes be followed by a threat while other times nothing might happen. Normal mice show less fear towards such ambiguous cues than to clearly threatening stimuli.

Magic Wand

Parrots, war vets team up in L.A. healing program

A dog may be a man's best friend. But for some traumatized war veterans, parrots are proving even more of a help.

Rescued and abused parrots are helping the veterans turn their lives around in a unique program launched officially on Thursday at a Los Angeles Veterans Affairs facility.

The parrots -- which sometimes pluck their own feathers when stressed out after years in cramped cages or abandoned by owners -- are thriving too in what organizers say is an exercise in mutual healing.

"Both the veterans and the parrots have suffered some kind of traumatic stress. Both are learning to build compassion and empathy together," said Lorin Lindner, the psychologist behind the Serenity Park Sanctuary at the V.A.'s headquarters in the Westwood section of Los Angeles.

Health

628 sickened by recalled peanut butter

The number of people sickened since August by peanut butter tainted with salmonella has grown by more than 200, according to a new federal report. The outbreak, first reported in February, now includes 628 cases in 47 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

X

Russia bans specimen exports

Russia has banned the export of medical specimens after the country's spy agency allegedly uncovered a Western plot to manufacture a biological weapon that would make Russians sterile.

In a decree that appeared to reflect the Russian state's growing suspicion of all things Western, the Federal Customs Service forbade the shipment of all human blood, hair, DNA and bone marrow out of the country.

While officials gave no formal explanation for the ban, Russia's most respected broadsheet suggested that the customs service had been ordered to act after the Federal Security Service, the KGB's successor, handed an alarming report to President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

Attention

DNA Research With Terror Risk: Scientists Report Altering Bacterium To Make It More Infectious

Researchers in Germany reported Thursday that they had altered the DNA of a disease-causing bacterium so that it can infect a species it cannot normally sicken.

Experts called the development a double-edged advance. Although the research could deepen scientists' understanding of human diseases, it also could speed development of novel bioterror agents.

The change in infectiousness - the first of its kind ever engineered from scratch - poses no direct threat to human health, scientists said, because the microbe already causes a human disease - the food-borne illness called listeriosis.

The change allows that microbe to sicken mice, a species that it has no natural capacity to infect.