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Sun, 25 Sep 2016
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Scientists Make Paralyzed Rats Walk Again After Spinal-Cord Injury

UCLA researchers have discovered that a combination of drugs, electrical stimulation and regular exercise can enable paralyzed rats to walk and even run again while supporting their full weight on a treadmill.

Published Nov. 20 in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience, the findings suggest that the regeneration of severed nerve fibers is not required for paraplegic rats to learn to walk again. The finding may hold implications for human rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries.

"The spinal cord contains nerve circuits that can generate rhythmic activity without input from the brain to drive the hind leg muscles in a way that resembles walking called 'stepping,'" explained principal investigator Reggie Edgerton, a professor of neurobiology and physiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Previous studies have tried to tap into this circuitry to help victims of spinal cord injury," he added. "While other researchers have elicited similar leg movements in people with complete spinal injuries, they have not achieved full weight-bearing and sustained stepping as we have in our study."

Attention

Leaked UN Report Claims Swine Flu Could "Kill Millions" and Cause "Anarchy" in Poor Nations

A UN report leaked to The Observer claims that swine flu could "kill millions" of people in poor nations and cause a total breakdown of society unless wealthy nations come up with US$1.5 billion to pay for pandemic vaccines and anti-viral drugs. It warns that the fragile economies of developing nations could be completely destroyed by the breakdown of social services, infrastructure and medical care.

The report specifically says:
"Countries where health services are overburdened by diseases, such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, will have great difficulty managing the surge of cases. And if the electricity and water sectors are not able to maintain services, this will have serious implications for the ability of the health sector to function. ...If suppliers of fuel, food, telecommunications, finance or transport services have not developed plans as to how they would continue to deliver their services, the consequences could be significantly intensified."
This UN report identifies 75 countries that remain vulnerable to this chaos scenario: 6 nations in South America, 21 nations from Asia and 40 in Africa. The only way to prevent the possible collapse of these nations, the report says, is for this $1.5 billion to be spent on vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

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Vitamin C Deficiency May Damage Babies' Mental Development

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do math calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. And the number of Americans with these kinds of learning disabilities is inexplicably huge. In fact, the NINDS web site states eight to 10 percent of all US children under the age of 18 have some type of learning disability.

While the NINDS lists speech therapy and drugs as ways to help youngsters cope with learning disabilities, the big question is what on earth causes so many children to have these learning problems in the first place? Now a new study suggests an explanation. Scientists from the life sciences division of the University of Copenhagen think a lack of vitamin C could impair the mental development of babies both in the womb and as newborns.

Research just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that guinea pigs subjected to moderate vitamin C deficiency had 30 per cent less hippocampus neurons (brain cells that convey information during new learning that involves associations) and far worse spatial memory than guinea pigs given a normal diet. So what does this have to do with humans? People, like guinea pigs, also can only get vitamin C through their diet or supplements. So Jens Lykkesfeldt, who headed the research team, speculates vitamin C deficiency in pregnant and breast-feeding women may lead to the same kind of learning problems in developing human fetuses and newborn babies as was seen in the vitamin C deficit guinea pig offspring.

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Basil is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Herb

Basil was recently shown to reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic patients by about 73 percent, which is on par with commonly used drugs for arthritis. The researcher who presented the results at The British Pharmacology Conference said they were going to begin studying the properties of basil to determine the active compounds which could be made into drugs. This is in contrast to just encouraging people to eat more fresh, organic basil. Many people however, see the logic in simply consuming more basil on a regular basis, while forgoing toxic drugs.

Basil actively inhibits the same enzyme that anti-inflammatory drugs do, including Ibuprofen and Tylenol. Except you won't fall over dead from eating too much basil, as was recently publicized is what often happens from consuming too much Tylenol. And really, if taking a bit more than the recommended amount of Tylenol is causing liver damage and killing people, wouldn't you say that taking any is too much?

Arthritic or not, basil contains many valuable properties, as most herbs do. The problem is, most people just don't eat enough herbs or make them a key component of at least one meal each day.

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The Handwriting of Liars

© PhysOrg
Forget about unreliable polygraph lie detectors for identifying liars. A new study claims the best way to find out if someone is a liar is to look at their handwriting, rather than analyzing their word choice, eye movements and body language.

The study by Gil Luria and Sara Rosenblum from the University of Haifa in Israel, tested 34 volunteers, who were each asked to write two stories using a system called ComPET (Computerized Penmanship Evaluation Tool), which comprises a piece of paper positioned on a computer tablet and a wireless electronic pen with a pressure-sensitive tip. Using the system, the subjects wrote one paragraph about a true memory, and one that was made up.

The researchers analyzed the writing and discovered that in the untrue paragraphs the subjects on average pressed down harder on the paper and made significantly longer strokes and taller letters than in the true paragraphs. The differences were not visible to the eye, but were detectable by computer analysis. There were no differences in writing speed.

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Conditional Consciousness: Patients in Vegetative States Can Learn, Predicting Recovery

© iStockphoto/Sebchandler
LATENT LEARNING?: If some vegetative patients can be shown to acquire conditional learning, should their status be reevaluated?
Brain-damaged patients who appear to have lost signs of conscious awareness might still be able to create new memories, showing signs of new neural networks and potential for partial recovery.

In patients who have survived severe brain damage, judging the level of actual awareness has proved a difficult process. And the prognosis can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

New research suggests that some vegetative patients are capable of simple learning - a sign of consciousness in many who had failed other traditional cognitive tests. The findings are presented in a paper today in Nature Neuroscience.

To decide whether patients are in a minimally conscious state (MCS), in which there is some evidence of perception, or intentional movement or have sunk into a vegetative state (VS), where there is neither, doctors have traditionally used a battery of tests and observations, many of which require some subjective interpretation, such as deciding whether a patient's movements are purposeful - to indicate a sullied feeding tube, for example - or just random.

Heart

Why Cholesterol May Not Be the Cause of Heart Disease

We have all been led to believe that cholesterol is bad and that lowering it is good. Because of extensive pharmaceutical marketing to both doctors and patients we think that using statin drugs is proven to work to lower the risk of heart attacks and death.

But on what scientific evidence is this based, what does that evidence really show?

Roger Williams once said something that is very applicable to how we commonly view the benefits of statins. "There are liars, damn liars, and statisticians."

People

Breaking down the myth of two genders

© Vancouver Sun
Nicky Phillips, shown in her Richmond neighbourhood, has never thought of herself as anything but a woman, yet a genetic test would show she is a man.

Nicky Phillips never thought of herself as anything but a girl.

As a child, growing up in the 1940s and '50s, she wore little-girl dresses, shiny shoes, and bobby socks. When she got a bit older, she started to wear lipstick and pearls and fuss about her hair.

Puberty brought with it the same uncertainty and awkwardness it brings most young women. But in Phillips's case, her body wasn't changing in the same ways it was for other girls.

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Delinquents 'Misinterpret Anger'

© BBC News
Seeing anger where it does not exist can lead to trouble.
Teenage boys who get into trouble with the law may find it hard to interpret social cues in others, say researchers.

A Japanese study of 24 young offenders found they mistook facial expressions of disgust for anger more often than their peers.

In Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health journal, the researchers said this might lead them to see a situation as more hostile than it was.

One UK expert said the ability to read facial expressions was "fundamental".

The team showed photos of faces expressing six basic emotions to 24 incarcerated young men and the same number of youths who had not been in trouble with the law.

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Under Pressure: The Impact Of Stress On Decision Making

We are faced with making decisions all the time. Often, we carefully deliberate the pros and cons of our choices, taking into consideration past experiences in similar situations before making a final decision. However, a new study suggests that cognitive stress, such as distraction, can influence this balanced, logical approach to decision making.

Psychologists Jane Raymond and Jennifer L. O'Brien of Bangor University in the United Kingdom wanted to investigate how cognitive stress affects rational decision making. In this study, participants played a simple gambling game in which they earned money by deciding between stimuli in this case, two pictures of different faces. Once their selection was made, it was immediately clear if they had won, lost, or broken even. Each face was always associated with the same outcome throughout this task. In the next stage of the experiment, the volunteers were shown each face individually and had to indicate whether they had seen those faces before. Sometimes volunteers were distracted during this task while other times they were not.