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Thu, 28 Jul 2016
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Nuke

US: Report finds high rate of thyroid cancer in eastern Pennsylvania.; blames nuclear power plants

Residents of eastern Pennsylvania might not know it, but they're living in the middle of a thyroid-cancer hot spot, according to a public-health advocate.

The eastern side of the state lays claim to six of the nation's top 18 counties with the highest thyroid-cancer rates, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pennsylvania ranked as the No. 1 state in thyroid-cancer cases between 2001 and 2005, 12.8 cases per 100,000 residents. (New Jersey comes in at No. 5 with 11.8 cases per 100,000.)

Joseph Mangano, the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group, said yesterday that he believes the spike in cancer is due to the high number of nuclear plants in the area.

At a news conference at City Hall where thyroid-cancer survivors and physicians also spoke, Mangano said that within 100 miles of eastern Pennsylvania, 16 nuclear reactors are operating at seven nuclear plants, the highest concentration in the country.

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Slow Breathing Reduces Pain

Research performed by a scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center has shown that controlled breathing at a slowed rate can significantly reduce feelings of pain.

Chronic pain sufferers, specifically fibromyalgia (FM) patients, also reported less pain while breathing slowly, unless they were overwhelmed by negative feelings, sadness or depression.

The research was led by Arthur (Bud) Craig, PhD, at Barrow, and was done in collaboration with investigators in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. It was published recently in PAIN, the refereed journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The findings offer an explanation for prior reports that mindful Zen meditation has beneficial effects on pain and that yogic breathing exercises can reduce feelings of depression. These results also underline the role that a person's positive or negative attitude can have on their feelings of pain.

The study involved two groups of women aged 45 to 65. One group was composed of women previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the other group was "healthy controls."

Comment: One of the most effective breathing techniques to achieve these results can be found here.


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Older Brains Make Good Use of 'Useless' Information

A new study has found promising evidence that the older brain's weakened ability to filter out irrelevant information may actually give aging adults a memory advantage over their younger counterparts.

A long line of research has already shown that aging is associated with a decreased ability to tune out irrelevant information. Now scientists at Baycrest's world-renowned Rotman Research Institute have demonstrated that when older adults "hyper-encode" extraneous information - and they typically do this without even knowing they're doing it - they have the unique ability to "hyper-bind" the information; essentially tie it to other information that is appearing at the same time.

The study, which appears online this week in the journal Psychological Science, was led by Karen Campbell, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Toronto, with supervision from Rotman senior scientist Dr. Lynn Hasher, a leading authority in attention and inhibitory functioning in younger and older adults.

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Common Stain Repellent Linked to Thyroid Disease

Long-term health study shows connection with blood levels of perfluorooctanoic acid

Stain-repelling chemicals help keep carpets, upholstery and clothing clean - but the compounds may be messing up the body. Higher blood levels of the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, are linked to thyroid diseases, scientists report online in Environmental Health Perspectives. It is the first report of such a connection between the widely used chemical and thyroid diseases in people and should prompt further studies, scientists say.

"We're looking at a moment in time," says study coauthor Tamara Galloway of the University of Exeter in England. The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

It provides a snapshot of the health of a representative sample of the U.S. population, but it can't speak to cause and effect, she cautions. "These studies are very valuable if you are trying to look for subtle interactions," which give clues that may warrant further investigation, says Galloway.

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Scientists Shed New Light on Walking

Researchers at the medical university Karolinska Institutet have created a genetically modified mouse in which certain neurons can be activated by blue light. Shining blue light on brainstems or spinal cords isolated from these mice produces walking-like motor activity. The findings, which are published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, are of potential significance to the recovery of walking after spinal cord injury.

"This new mouse model will impact the way in which future studies examining the organization of neurons involved in walking are performed. We hope that our findings can provide insight that eventually will contribute to treatments for spinal cord injured patients"," says Professor Ole Kiehn, who lead the study.

Excitatory neurons have been suggested to play an important role for the initiation and maintenance of locomotion, or walking. However, this has not been demonstrated directly. In order to test the hypothesis that activation of excitatory neurons is essential to locomotion, a research team at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, created a genetically modified mouse which expresses a light sensitive protein in excitatory neurons.

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HIV Infection Prematurely Ages the Brain

HIV infection or the treatments used to control it are prematurely aging the brain, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California-San Diego have found.

Blood flow in the brains of HIV patients is reduced to levels normally seen in uninfected patients 15 to 20 years older, scientists report online in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"The graying of the AIDS patient community makes this infection's effects on the brain a significant source of concern," says first author Beau Ances, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at Washington University. "Patients are surviving into their senior years, and a number of them are coming forward to express concerns about problems they're having with memory and other cognitive functions."

Epidemiologists estimate that 14 percent to 18 percent of all AIDS patients in the United States are more than 50 years old. This age group also has one of the highest rates of new infection. If current trends continue, by the year 2015, their number will grow to more than 50 percent of the overall patient population.

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Brain Abnormalities in Parkinson's Patients Develop Before Symptoms Occur

Scientists who have identified brain networks damaged in Parkinson's disease have new evidence that these systems become abnormal a few years before symptoms appear. And what's more, parts of the network appear to respond in a last ditch attempt to rescue the brain.

"We were surprised," said Chris Tang, MD, PhD, a Parkinson's investigator at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, and an author of the study, published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience. The Feinstein scientists have been following people with Parkinson's disease for decades. They have had a unique opportunity to take snapshots of the brain over the course of four years in 15 patients and an equal number of normal volunteers. The group initially identified two discrete abnormal networks, one that was involved in mediating the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and the other that regulates the cognitive dysfunction that develops in many patients with this illness.

Symptoms of Parkinson's disease initially occur on one side of the body, which provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the brain scans at multiple times and compare the symptoms to changes in the brain networks over time. The idea for the latest study was to watch the activity of the network on the side of the brain that controls the side of the body that's free of symptoms. As the disease progresses, both sides of the body ultimately become involved.

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Vitamin D Supplementation Can Reduce Falls in Nursing Care Facilities

Giving people living in nursing facilities vitamin D can reduce the rate of falls, according to a new Cochrane Review. This finding comes from a study of many different interventions used in different situations. In hospitals, multifactorial interventions and supervised exercise programs also showed benefit.

Older people living in nursing facilities or who have been admitted to hospital are much more likely to suffer a fall than those living in the community. In these settings, falls fairly often result in head injuries and fractures, with rates of hip fracture more than ten times higher in nursing facilities than in the community. It is important to try to prevent falls to avoid unnecessary stress for older people and their families, and to reduce pressure on staff and resources. However, prevention is complicated as falls usually happen for several or many different reasons.

"Many of the preventive measures used to avoid falls in older people are combined in what are called multifactorial interventions, so it can be very difficult to separate out the effects of all the different measures," said lead researcher Ian Cameron, who is based at Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney in Ryde, Australia.

Family

Emotions should be taken seriously

Health workers trained to take emotions more seriously may prevent depression among patients, a recent study at the University of Stavanger finds.

For most women, having a baby is a joyful experience. But it is not unusual for new mothers to be hit by grief, anxiety and depression. Global figures suggest that between 13 and 16 percent of women giving birth for the first time are struck by depression. For the second birth, figures boost to a worrying 30-40 percent.

Associate professor Kristin Akerjordet at the University of Stavanger, surveyed 250 postnatal women for her PhD thesis. Of the 30 women she interviewed, 15 had experienced depressive emotions in connection with pregnancy and birth.

"The health services often fail to recognise women who suffer from postnatal depression or anxiety. Many of the women I interviewed had experienced rejection and a lack of understanding from health personnel," Akerjordet says.

Bulb

Driven to Distraction: New Study Shows Driving Hinders Talking

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© Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, U. of I. News Bureau.
Gary Dell, a psycholinguist in the department of psychology at Illinois, and his colleagues found that young and old drivers lose about 20 percent of their ability to retain and retell a story while driving.
It is well known that having a conversation (for example on a cell phone) impairs one's driving. A new study indicates the reverse is also true: Driving reduces one's ability to comprehend and use language.

The findings, from researchers at the University of Illinois, appear in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

This is the first study to find that driving impairs language skills, said Gary Dell, a psycholinguist in the department of psychology at Illinois and corresponding author on the study. Two previous studies had reported that driving did not impair the accuracy and comprehension of speech.

"The previous findings made no sense to those of us who have studied language," Dell said. "You might think that talking is an easy thing to do and that comprehending language is easy. But it's not. Speech production and speech comprehension are attention-demanding activities, and so they ought to compete with other tasks that require your attention - like driving."