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Thu, 09 Dec 2021
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Study reveals how the brain generates the human tendency for optimism

A neural network that may generate the human tendency to be optimistic has been identified by researchers at New York University. As humans, we expect to live longer and be more successful than average, and we underestimate our likelihood of getting a divorce or having cancer. The results, reported in the most recent issue of Nature, link the optimism bias to the same brain regions that show irregularities in depression.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the laboratory of NYU Professor Elizabeth Phelps. The lead author is Tali Sharot, now a post-doctoral fellow at University College London.

Clock

Daylight savings time disrupts humans' natural circadian rhythm

When people living in many parts of the world move their clocks forward one hour in the spring in observance of daylight saving time (DST), their bodies' internal, daily rhythms don't adjust with them, reports a new study appearing online on October 25th in Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. The finding suggests that this regular time change - practiced by a quarter of the human population - represents a significant seasonal disruption, raising the possibility that DST may have unintended effects on other aspects of human physiology, according to the researchers.

"When we implement small changes into a biological system which by themselves seem trivial, their effects, when viewed in a broader context, may have a much larger impact than we had thought," said Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, Germany. "It is much too early to say whether DST has a serious long-term impact on health, but our results indicate that we should consider this seriously and do a lot more research on the phenomenon."

Ambulance

Deaths from superbug soaring

Deaths caused by the hospital superbug Clostridium difficile have soared by more than 60 per cent in Scotland in a single year, according to shocking new figures.

The bug, whose spread has been linked to poor cleanliness in hospital wards, was the main cause of death of 164 people last year - up from 100 in 2005. C difficile was also a contributing factor in the deaths of a further 253 people, statistics from the General Register Office for Scotland revealed.

Ambulance

New lethal superbug found in Scottish hospitals

A VIRTUALLY untreatable new superbug has been found in Scotland for the first time after causing death and panic in hospitals in the US and England.

Eleven patients have tested positive for the presence of multi-antibiotic-resistant Acinetobacter, which - unlike MRSA - can only be treated with one medicine.

Health chiefs believe the new superbug is now present throughout Scotland and it is only a matter of time before it mutates into a particularly deadly form which does not respond to any known antibiotic.

Red Flag

Mystery virus puzzles health officials; kills more than 300 people, most of them children

HEALTH DEPARTMENT officials are a puzzled lot these days as identification of the mysterious virus, which has killed over 300 people and infected around 1,800 people mostly children, remains a distant dream. The virus continues to be on the prowl in eastern and western Uttar Pradesh even eight months after it started infecting people.

Health

Possible Physical Origin Of Alzheimer's Disease

For some time, scientists have blamed Alzheimer's disease on a small molecule called amyloid beta protein (A beta) that leaves large gummy deposits in the brain. Recent studies suggest that these A beta proteins stick together to form floating toxic clumps that kill brain cells. Now, UCLA scientists have identified a tiny loop in A beta as the likely culprit behind the adhesion process.

©University of California
Amyloid Protein Loop. Broken red lines indicate a loop in the amyloid B-protein that enables it to attach to other proteins and form clumps that kill brain cells.

Attention

Scientists discover how gold eases pain of arthritis

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center may have solved the mystery surrounding the healing properties of gold - a discovery they say may renew interest in gold salts as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Comment: HMGB1 is an interesting little molecule that likes to get involved in all sorts of DNA-related processes.

National Center for Biotechnology Information has more information here but allow us to cite a few examples:
- DNA repair
- anti-apoptosis (which means preventing pre-programmed cell death)
- establishment and maintenance of the basic structure of chromosomes
- receptor signal transduction

Do we really want to inhibit such a helpful molecule?


Info

Social stress + darkness = increased anxiety

Just in time for Halloween, researchers are releasing new data that show darkness increases the impact of social stress, in an article scheduled for publication in the November 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry. As children and adults alike gear up for the anticipation and excitement of this "spooky" holiday, this study lends a further understanding to our inherent fear of the dark.

Grillon and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health sought to examine whether stress increases unconditioned fear in humans. To do this, they measured the startle reflex of healthy volunteers in either light or dark conditions, and after either a socially stressful situation of public speaking, or after a period of relaxation. The startle response is a sensitive tool for measuring anxiety levels, and in this study, was measured when volunteers were presented with white noise stimuli via headphones. The authors found that the startle response was boosted when the volunteers were in complete darkness, and this effect was more pronounced after the stressor.

Arrow Up

Ideal weight varies across cultures, but body image dissatisfaction pervades

Different cultures have different standards and norms for appropriate body size and shape, which can effect how children perceive their body image. Some cultures celebrate a fuller body shape more than others, but researchers at the Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Temple University have found that an overweight or obese child can still be unhappy with his or her body, despite acceptance from within their ethnic group.

"This unhappiness is yet another consequence of childhood obesity," said Gary Foster, Ph.D., director of CORE and president-elect of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. "These data illustrate when treating overweight children, it's important to attend the psychological consequences that excess weight confers, no matter what the ethnic group."

Coffee

Broccoli Sprout-Derived Extract Protects Against Ultraviolet Radiation

A team of Johns Hopkins scientists reports in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that humans can be protected against the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation - the most abundant cancer-causing agent in our environment - by topical application of an extract of broccoli sprouts. The results in human volunteers, backed by parallel evidence obtained in mice, show that the degree of skin redness (erythema) caused by UV rays, which is an accurate index of the inflammation and cell damage caused by UV radiation, is markedly reduced in extract-treated skin.

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