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Sun, 25 Oct 2020
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Light Saber

Alarm over gender-bending chemical

An unusual mix of public health advocates, environmentalists and laundry workers joined yesterday in a petition demanding that federal authorities ban a chemical additive found in some household detergents and other cleaning agents.

The petition, which was submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, also called for studies of human risks related to the dirt-lifting agents called nonylphenol ethoxylates, or NPEs.

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Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (Xdr-Tb): The Facts

What is XDR-TB?

TB can usually be treated with a course of four standard, or first-line, anti-TB drugs. If these are misused or mismanaged, multidrugresistant TB (MDR-TB) can develop. MDR-TB takes longer to treat with second-line drugs, which are more expensive and have more side-effects. If these drugs are also misused or mismanaged, extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) can develop. Because XDR-TB is resistant to first- and second-line drugs, treatment options are seriously limited and so are the chances of cure.

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Emergence of XDR-TB

WHO concern over extensive drug resistant TB strains that are virtually untreatable

5 SEPTEMBER 2006 - GENEVA - The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern over the emergence of virulent drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB) and is calling for measures to be strengthened and implemented to prevent the global spread of the deadly TB strains. This follows research showing the extent of XDR-TB, a newly identified TB threat which leaves patients (including many people living with HIV) virtually untreatable using currently available anti-TB drugs.

Later this week, WHO will join other TB experts at a two-day meeting in South Africa (7-8 September) to assess the response required to critically address TB drug resistance, particularly in Africa, and will take part in a news conference scheduled for Thursday, 7 September in Johannesburg.

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314 XDR-TB cases reported in SA

A total of 314 cases of extreme drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) had been confirmed countrywide, with 214 deaths, according to acting health minister Jeff Radebe.

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'Virtually untreatable' TB found

A "virtually untreatable" form of TB has emerged, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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About 1.7 million people die from TB globally each year

"This is very worrying, especially when mixed with HIV" - Dr Paul Nunn, WHO

"XDR TB is very serious - we are potentially getting close to a bacteria that we have no tools, no weapons against" - Paul Sommerfeld, Stop TB

Magnify

New interview technique could help police spot deception

Shifting uncomfortably in your seat? Stumbling over your words? Can't hold your questioner's gaze? Police interviewing strategies place great emphasis on such visual and speech-related cues, although new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and undertaken by academics at the University of Portsmouth casts doubt on their effectiveness. However, the discovery that placing additional mental stress on interviewees could help police identify deception has attracted interest from investigators in the UK and abroad.

Police manuals recommend several approaches to help investigators decide whether they are being told the truth. The principal strategy focuses on visual cues such as eye contact and body movement, whilst the Baseline Method strategy sees investigators compare a suspect's verbal and non-verbal responses during 'small talk' at the beginning of interview with those in the interview proper. A third, the Behavioural Analysis Interview (BAI) strategy, comprises a list of questions to which it is suggested liars and those telling the truth will give different verbal and non-verbal responses.

However, research has consistently found that cues offered in each of these scenarios are unreliable - a view confirmed by the ESRC-funded 'Interviewing to Detect Deception' study. A series of experiments involving over 250 student 'interviewees' and 290 police officers, the study saw interviewees either lie or tell the truth about staged events. Police officers were then asked to tell the liars from the truth tellers using the recommended strategies. Those paying attention to visual cues proved significantly worse at distinguishing liars from those telling the truth than those looking for speech-related cues. In another experiment, liars appeared less nervous and more helpful than those telling the truth - contrary to the advice of the BAI strategy.

Magic Wand

Have I been here before? Scientists identified a neuronal mechanism that our brains may use to rapidly distinguish similar, yet distinct places

"Have I been here before"? In today's fast-moving world of look-alike hotel rooms and comparable corridors, it can take a bit of thinking to answer this simple question. University of Bristol neuroscientists working with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) report in the June 7 early online edition of Science that they have identified a neuronal mechanism that our brains may use to rapidly distinguish similar, yet distinct places.

The work could lead to treatments for memory-related disorders, as well as for the confusion and disorientation that plague elderly individuals who have trouble distinguishing between separate but similar places and experiences.

Forming memories of places and contexts in which episodes occur engages a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT, has been exploring how each of the three hippocampal subregions-the dentate gyrus, CA1 and CA3-contribute uniquely to different aspects of learning and memory. In the current study, co-authors Matthew Jones, Research Councils UK (RCUK) Academic Fellow in the Department of Physiology at the University of Bristol and Dr Thomas McHugh, a Picower Institute research scientist, have revealed that the learning in the dentate gyrus is crucial in rapidly recognizing and amplifying the small differences that make each place unique.

Magic Wand

High self-esteem may be culturally universal, international study shows

The notion that East Asians, Japanese in particular, are self-effacing and have low self-esteem compared to Americans may well describe the surface view of East Asian personality, but misses the picture revealed by recently developed measures of self-esteem, according to a new study by a team of researchers from the United States, China and Japan.

For the first time psychologists used those new measures in exactly parallel fashion to compare samples of university students from the three countries. Surveying more than 500 students, they found that implicit, or automatic, self-esteem was strongly positive among students from each of the nations. The consistency of the findings across cultures was so clearly apparent that the researchers conclude in this month's issue of the journal Psychological Science that high implicit self-esteem may be culturally universal.

The researchers used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) created by University of Washington psychologist Anthony Greenwald and a co-author of the study, to probe the students' positive associations with themselves. Different versions of the test have been widely used to investigate automatic attitudes and evaluations such as racial bias, and gender and age stereotypes. In this study it was used to provide an index of self-esteem. Psychologists previously equated self-esteem with the extent to which people describe themselves as having positive characteristics. These self-descriptions are called explicit self-esteem and are measured by asking for agreement with statements such as "I feel that I have a number of good qualities." No questions are asked to measure implicit self-esteem. Instead the test measures how rapidly a person can give the same response to words that are pleasant and words that refer to one's self.

Arrow Down

Calorie density key to losing weight

Eating smart, not eating less, may be the key to losing weight. A year-long clinical trial by Penn State researchers shows that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.

Foods that are high in water and low in fat - such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products - are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite.

"Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows people to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories" said Dr. Julia A. Ello-Martin, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral dissertation in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State. Previously, little was known about the influence of diets low in calorie density on body weight.

"Such diets are known to reduce the intake of calories in the short term, but their role in promoting weight loss over the long term was not clear," said Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, who directed the study and who holds the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State.

Evil Rays

A wider range of sounds for the deaf

More than three decades ago, scientists pursued the then-radical idea of implanting tiny electronic hearing devices in the inner ear to help profoundly deaf people. An even bolder alternative that promised superior results - implanting a device directly in the auditory nerve - was set aside as too difficult, given the technology of the day.

Now, however, scientists have shown in animals that it's possible to implant a tiny, ultra-thin electrode array in the auditory nerve that can successfully transmit a wide range of sounds to the brain. The studies took place at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute.

If the idea pans out in further animal and human studies, profoundly and severely deaf people would have another option that could allow them to hear low-pitched sounds common in speech, converse in a noisy room, identify high and low voices, and appreciate music - areas where cochlea implants, though a boon, have significant limitations.