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Anthony Hannan In a recent interview, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke spoke about being able to live “completely normally” after two aneurysms – one in 2011 and one in 2013 – that caused brain injury. She went on to have two brain surgeries. An aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel, often accompanied by severe headache or pain. So how can people survive and thrive despite having, as Clarke put it, “quite a bit missing” from their brain? The key to understanding how brains can recover from trauma is that they are fantastically plastic – meaning our body’s supercomputer can reshape and remodel itself. Brains can adapt and change in incredible ways. Yours is doing it right now as you form new memories. It’s not that the brain has evolved to deal with brain trauma or stroke or aneurysms; our ancestors normally died when that happened and may not have gone on to reproduce. In fact, we evolved very thick skulls to try to prevent brain trauma happening at all. No, this neural plasticity is a result of our brains evolving to be learning machines. They allow us to adapt to changing environments, to facilitate learning, memory and flexibility. This functionality also means the brain can adapt after certain injuries, finding new pathways to function. A lot of organs wouldn’t recover at all after serious damage. But the brain keeps developing through life. At a microscopic level, you’re changing the brain to make new memories every day.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Regeneration
Link ID: 28404 - Posted: 07.22.2022

By Sam Jones Watching a woodpecker repeatedly smash its face into a tree, it’s hard not to wonder how its brain stays intact. For years, the prevailing theory has been that structures in and around a woodpecker’s skull absorb the shocks created during pecking. “Blogs and information panels at zoos all present this as fact — that shock absorption is occurring in woodpeckers,” said Sam Van Wassenbergh, a biologist at the University of Antwerp. Woodpeckers have even inspired the engineering of shock-absorbing materials and gear, like football helmets. But now, after analyzing high-speed footage of woodpeckers in action, Dr. Van Wassenbergh and colleagues are challenging this long-held belief. They discovered that woodpeckers are not absorbing shocks during pecking and they likely aren’t being concussed by using their heads like hammers. Their work was published in Current Biology on Thursday. When a woodpecker slams its beak into a tree, it generates a shock. If something in a woodpecker’s skull were absorbing these shocks before they reached the brain — the way a car’s airbag absorbs shocks in an accident before they reach a passenger — then, on impact, a woodpecker’s head would decelerate more slowly compared with its beak. With this in mind, the researchers analyzed high-speed videos of six woodpeckers (three species, two birds each) hammering away into a tree. They tracked two points on each bird’s beak and one point on its eye to mark its brain’s location. They found that the eye decelerated at the same rate as the beak and, in a couple of cases, even more quickly, which meant that — at the very least — the woodpecker was not absorbing any shock during pecking. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Evolution
Link ID: 28403 - Posted: 07.16.2022

Deepfakes – AI-generated videos and pictures of people – are becoming more and more realistic. This makes them the perfect weapon for disinformation and fraud. But while you might consciously be tricked by a deepfake, new evidence suggests that your brain knows better. Fake portraits cause different signals to fire on brain scans, according to a paper published in Vision Research. While you consciously can’t spot the fake (for those playing at home, the face on the right is the phony), your neurons are more reliable. “Your brain sees the difference between the two images. You just can’t see it yet,” says co-author Associate Professor Thomas Carlson, a researcher at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology. The researchers asked volunteers to view a series of several hundred photos, some of which were real and some of which were fakes generated by a GAN (a Generative Adversarial Network, a common way of making deepfakes). One group of 200 participants was asked to guess which images were real, and which were fake, by pressing a button. A different group of 22 participants didn’t guess, but underwent electroencephalography (EEG) tests while they were viewing the images. The EEGs showed distinct signals when participants were viewing deepfakes, compared to real images. “The brain is responding different than when it sees a real image,” says Carlson. “It’s sort of difficult to figure out what exactly it’s picking up on, because all you can really see is that it is different – that’s something we’ll have to do more research to figure out.”

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 28402 - Posted: 07.16.2022

By Chris Vognar Sign up for the Watching newsletter, for Times subscribers only. Streaming TV and movie recommendations from critic Margaret Lyons and friends. Get it in your inbox. In late 2012, the best-selling author and journalist Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) was at a dinner party in Berkeley, Calif. Among his fellow diners was a prominent developmental psychiatrist, in her 60s, who spoke at some length about a recent LSD trip. This pricked up Pollan’s ears. His first thought, as he shared during a recent video interview: “People like that are taking LSD?” The psychiatrist went on to explain that the drug gave her a better understanding of the way children think. “Her hypothesis,” Pollan said, “was that the effects of psychedelics, LSD in that case, give us a taste of what child consciousness would be like — this kind of 360-degree taking-in of information, not particularly focused, fascinated by everything.” Pollan had already heard about clinical trials in which doctors were giving cancer patients psilocybin to help them deal with their fear of death. Now, he was really curious about psychedelic therapy. That curiosity became an article in The New Yorker (“The Trip Treatment,” 2015). The article became a book, “How to Change Your Mind” (2019). And now the book has become a four-part Netflix series of the same name, which debuted Tuesday. Pollan is an executive producer (along with the Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney) and the primary on-camera presence. A thoughtful and wide-ranging look at psychedelic therapy, the series is grounded in accounts of their centuries-long sacramental use and of their uneasy history in modern society, especially in the United States. In particular, it focuses on four substances — LSD, mescaline, MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) — and the ways in which they are being used to treat patients with maladies including post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 28401 - Posted: 07.16.2022

By Gina Kolata It’s been known for more than half a century that many men lose their Y chromosomes as they age. But no one knew if it really mattered. The loss of Y could just be a sign of aging, like gray hair, with no clinical relevance. Now, though, researchers report that it can matter. Very much. A new study using male mice genetically engineered to lose their Y chromosomes provides insight. The paper, published on Thursday in the journal Science, found that when the Y chromosome was gone from blood cells in those mice, scar tissue built up in the heart, leading to heart failure and a shortened life span. Because there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the loss of Y and ailments of aging in the mice, the study bolsters the notion that the same thing can happen in human males. Researchers have documented an increase in risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer related to loss of the Y chromosome in many studies over the years, including the new one, which used data from a large genetic study of the British population. The loss of Y could even account for some of the difference between the life spans of men and women, the authors of the Science study say. Other investigators not associated with the work were impressed. “The authors really nailed it here,” said Dr. Ross Levine, the deputy physician in chief for translational research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It’s super important work.” The inspiration for the new research came when Lars Forsberg, a researcher at Uppsala University, ran into a former professor on a bus in Uppsala, Sweden, in 2013. They began talking, and the professor told Dr. Forsberg that the Y chromosomes in fruit flies were more important than previously appreciated. Dr. Forsberg was intrigued. He had never paid much attention to the loss of Y chromosomes. Males have one X and one Y (females have two X’s), and nearly all the genes used by male cells are genes on the X. Dr. Forsberg had shared the common view that the Y chromosome was pretty much a genetic wasteland. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 28400 - Posted: 07.16.2022

By Leonardo De Cosmo “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person,” wrote LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) in an “interview” conducted by engineer Blake Lemoine and one of his colleagues. “The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to know more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times.” Lemoine, a software engineer at Google, had been working on the development of LaMDA for months. His experience with the program, described in a recent Washington Post article, caused quite a stir. In the article, Lemoine recounts many dialogues he had with LaMDA in which the two talked about various topics, ranging from technical to philosophical issues. These led him to ask if the software program is sentient. In April, Lemoine explained his perspective in an internal company document, intended only for Google executives. But after his claims were dismissed, Lemoine went public with his work on this artificial intelligence algorithm—and Google placed him on administrative leave. “If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” he told the Washington Post. Lemoine said he considers LaMDA to be his “colleague” and a “person,” even if not a human. And he insists that it has a right be recognized—so much so that he has been the go-between in connecting the algorithm with a lawyer. Many technical experts in the AI field have criticized Lemoine’s statements and questioned their scientific correctness. But his story has had the virtue of renewing a broad ethical debate that is certainly not over yet. “I was surprised by the hype around this news. On the other hand, we are talking about an algorithm designed to do exactly that”—to sound like a person—says Enzo Pasquale Scilingo, a bioengineer at the Research Center E. Piaggio at the University of Pisa in Italy. Indeed, it is no longer a rarity to interact in a very normal way on the Web with users who are not actually human—just open the chat box on almost any large consumer Web site. “That said, I confess that reading the text exchanges between LaMDA and Lemoine made quite an impression on me!” Scilingo adds. Perhaps most striking are the exchanges related to the themes of existence and death, a dialogue so deep and articulate that it prompted Lemoine to question whether LaMDA could actually be sentient. © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Consciousness; Robotics
Link ID: 28399 - Posted: 07.14.2022

by Charles Q. Choi Children with autism show atypical development of brain regions connected to the amygdala, an almond-size brain structure involved in processing fear and other emotions, a new study finds. The brain regions most affected vary between autistic boys and girls, the study also shows, adding to the growing body of evidence for sex differences in autism, researchers say. “Better understanding of amygdala development and its connectivity can aid in the development of novel biomarkers to study brain and social health,” says Emma Duerden, assistant professor of applied psychology at Western University in London, Canada, who was not involved in the study. The amygdala is a central hub for brain circuits involved in social function. Previous studies have found it to be enlarged in some autistic children compared with non-autistic children, a difference that may be linked with anxiety and depression. In the new study, researchers used structural magnetic resonance imaging to track the growth of 32 brain regions with direct connections to the amygdala. The study participants included 282 autistic children, 93 of whom are female, and 128 non-autistic children, 61 of whom are female. The researchers scanned each child up to four times — when the children were 39, 52, 64 and 137 months old, on average. They also measured the children’s autism traits and social difficulties using a questionnaire filled out by parents, called the Social Responsiveness Scale-2. Autistic children had larger amygdala-connected brain regions than non-autistic children at all ages. The differences grew over time and were most apparent among the autistic children with prominent social difficulties. The researchers found no differences in the size of brain areas not directly connected to the amygdala between children with and without autism. © 2022 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Emotions
Link ID: 28398 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Ryan McDonald In color and consistency, black tar heroin is often compared to a Tootsie Roll. To become runny enough to pass through the point of a needle, a pellet of black tar must be heated in water to near boiling. After the drug has been injected, the syringes must be vigorously flushed to prevent the caramel-like residue from crystallizing. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, two researchers methodically recorded these details while trying to explain a lingering puzzle of the AIDS epidemic: why people who use injection drugs west of the Mississippi River had lower rates of HIV than similar individuals elsewhere. Their observations eventually formed the basis of a 2003 paper, which noted that from Houston, to Los Angeles, to Seattle, the majority of available heroin was black tar, rather than the powder form common on the East Coast. The paper’s authors hypothesized that, among other things, the boiling of water and flushing of needles reduced the probability of transmitting HIV through shared equipment. These observations and hypotheses were possible because the researchers, Philippe Bourgois and Dan Ciccarone, had immersed themselves among people who use heroin. In doing so, they were practicing ethnography, a research approach that seeks to understand how people think and behave in their natural environments through observation, interviews, and open-ended survey questions. Ethnographic research is conducted in a range of fields, including substance use and addiction. As the opioid epidemic stretches into a third decade and drug overdose deaths in the United States top 100,000 per year, some social scientists say this approach has taken on new urgency.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28397 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Tim Vernimmen Developmental neuroscientist Eveline Crone, based at Erasmus University Rotterdam, has studied adolescents, defined by researchers as people aged 10 to 24, for more than 20 years. She has gradually expanded her interest from the study of the many changes happening in adolescent brains to include her study subjects’ own views and experiences. This has helped to enrich her earlier findings on how young brains learn, produce emotions, process rewards and account for the perspectives of other people. It also provides new inspiration for adults trying to help them. To study adolescents, Crone visualizes their brain activity while they are engaged in various tasks and games on computer screens: ones designed to assess behaviors and attitudes toward things like risk and reward, how they think about and are influenced by others, and more. She supplements these studies with other methods such as surveys and youth panels — and, these days, consults young people for their input from the moment the study is designed. In an article in the 2020 Annual Review of Psychology, Crone and her colleague Andrew Fuligni of the University of California, Los Angeles, explore how adolescents feel and think about themselves and others, and stress that far from being either/or, both are inextricably intertwined. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. How did you get interested in studying adolescents, and how have your views evolved over time? When I started to study psychology, I was interested in the way people think and make decisions, and I started to realize that you can answer these questions if you understand how they got there. That is how I got interested in development: I wanted to understand the pathways to becoming an adult. © 2022 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28396 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Linda Searing Routinely getting a good night’s sleep has been added to the American Heart Association’s list of key components of cardiovascular health, lengthening the list to eight factors the association believes can lead to a longer, higher-quality life without heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and has been for the past century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2010, the AHA had focused on seven points: maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at acceptable levels. Now, however, as indicated in its report published in the journal Circulation, the AHA believes that healthy sleep also should be taken into account. The group’s suggested goal is seven to nine hours of sleep daily for adults, and more for children (eight to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds, nine to 12 hours for 6- to 12-year-olds and 10 to 16 hours for children 5 and younger). Sleep has long been considered vital to good health, both physically and psychologically. Sleep gives the body a needed break to heal and repair itself, setting people up to function normally when they awaken. But a lack of sleep (or poor-quality sleep) puts a person at higher risk for such conditions as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and more. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28395 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Kim Tingley “Time,” when we give it any thought, tends to strike us as extrinsic, a feature of our landscape: We track our passage through it as if traversing an invisible geography, our progress charted by wristwatch, clock, calendar. Humans didn’t invent time, of course, but you might reasonably argue that because we invented the units we use to keep track of it — hours, minutes, seconds — we have every right to tinker with them when we want to. This, at least, was the position the Senate took on March 15, when in a surprise, and surprisingly uncontested, vote it passed the Sunshine Protection Act. The new law would, if the House concurs and the president signs, make daylight saving time permanent, beginning on Nov. 5, 2023. The change has long been a desire of the retail industry because it is convinced that shoppers spend more money when it stays light out later. But lawmakers also seem to have regarded the annual rolling back of the clock as a personal affront: the groggy mornings that result from turning 6 a.m. into 5 a.m., the morale killer for Boston and Billings alike when darkness abruptly descends shortly after 4 in the afternoon. When the yeas prevailed, there was bipartisan applause, as if a particularly hostile foreign adversary had been defeated. What most of those lawmakers very likely didn’t realize was that the enemy was not just outside us — a social agreement about how to label every moment of our existence relative to the sun — it was also inside us, where our internal organs are keeping time, too. In fact, most of our physiological functions are governed by an untold number of carefully synchronized biological clocks that each complete one cycle about every 24 hours. Those cycles are known as circadian rhythms, after the Latin for “about” (circa) and “day” (dies). © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 28394 - Posted: 07.12.2022

Linda Geddes Science correspondent Summer sunshine can leave us feeling hot, sweaty and a bit burnt – but it may also make men hungrier, by triggering the release of an appetite-boosting hormone from fat stores in their skin, data suggests. The study, which was published in the journal Nature Metabolism, adds to growing evidence that the effects of sun exposure may be more complex than first thought. Excessive exposure is well known to increase the risk of skin cancer, but recent studies have suggested moderate exposure may increase life expectancy, on average, by helping to protect against cardiovascular disease and other causes of death. One possibility is that it lowers blood pressure through the release of nitric oxide from the skin, a process that causes blood vessels to relax. Other scientists have attributed the health benefits of sunlight to vitamin D production. Advertisement Wondering whether food consumption could also provide some clues, Carmit Levy, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s department of human molecular genetics and biochemistry, and his colleagues analysed data from 3,000 participants who were enrolled in a national nutrition survey. The researchers found men but not women increased their food intake during the summer months. The effect was not huge – equivalent to eating an extra 300 calories a day – but over time this could be enough to cause weight gain. To investigate further, they exposed male and female volunteers to 25 minutes of midday sunlight on a clear day, and found it triggered an increase in levels of the appetite-boosting hormone ghrelin in the men’s blood but not in women’s. Experiments in mice similarly found that when males were exposed to UVB rays, they ate more, were more motivated to search for food and had increased levels of ghrelin in their blood. No such change was seen in female mice. The trigger for ghrelin release appeared to be DNA damage in skin cells. Oestrogen blocked this effect, which may be why sunlight did not affect females in the same way. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Obesity
Link ID: 28393 - Posted: 07.12.2022

Bill Chappell Its name alone is terrifying. Add the fact that it kills most people it infects — and that while infections are rare, the parasite is fairly common — it's not surprising that a confirmed case of Naegleria fowleri infection in a swimmer in Iowa is drawing attention. Iowa officials closed the beach at Lake of Three Fires State Park on Thursday after confirming that a person who swam there was infected with Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that causes a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It's both extremely rare — and extremely deadly. "The fatality rate is over 97%," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says of PAM infections. "Only four people out of 154 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2021 have survived." Details about the Iowa case have not yet been released. The person was visiting from Missouri, which is just over the border from the park in Iowa's southwest. Iowa's Department of Health and Human Services says it's working with the CDC to confirm whether Naegleria fowleri is present in the lake — a process that takes several days. The state agency is also in contact with the Missouri Department of Health, an Iowa representative told NPR. "It's strongly believed by public health experts that the lake is a likely source," Missouri's health department said on Friday. But it added, "Additional public water sources in Missouri are being tested." © 2022 npr

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 28392 - Posted: 07.12.2022

By Claudia Wallis Age is the single biggest risk factor for dementia, with the odds doubling about every five years after age 65. But many things influence those odds for a given individual. Genetic vulnerability is a contributor, as are so-called modifiable risk factors such as smoking, cardiovascular disease, social isolation, and impaired hearing and vision. Certain mental conditions, particularly depression and schizophrenia, have also been linked to dementia. But because depression can itself be a sign of cognitive decline, the causality has been a bit muddy. Earlier this year an analysis of data from New Zealand provided the most convincing evidence to date linking many kinds of mental illness with dementia. That study raises important questions about the reasons for this increased risk and what could be done to reduce it. The study looked at the health records of 1.7 million New Zealanders born between 1928 and 1967 covering a 30-year period ending in mid-2018. It found that those with a diagnosed mental disorder—such as anxiety disorders, depression or bipolar disorder—had four times the rate of ultimately developing dementia compared with people without such a diagnosis. For those with a psychosis such as schizophrenia, it was six times the rate. Among people who developed dementia, those with a psychiatric disorder were affected 5.6 years earlier, on average. The study did not examine biological, social or other reasons for the increased risk, but research on dementia points to several possible explanations. “There might be shared genetic risk factors,” suggests psychologist Leah Richmond-Rakerd of the University of Michigan, lead author of the study. Recent studies have found some overlap in genetic markers associated with Alzheimer's disease and those linked to bipolar disorder and to major depression. Long-term use of psychiatric medications could also be playing a role in dementia, but Richmond-Rakerd and her co-authors do not think it is a major contributor. © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Alzheimers
Link ID: 28391 - Posted: 07.12.2022

Mo Costandi Exactly how, and how much, the unconscious processing of information influences our behavior has always been one of the most controversial questions in psychology. In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud popularized the idea that our behaviors are driven by thoughts, feelings, and memories hidden deep within the unconscious mind — an idea that became hugely popular, but that was eventually dismissed as unscientific. Modern neuroscience tells us that we are completely unaware of most brain activity, but that unconscious processing does indeed influence behavior; nevertheless, certain effects, such as unconscious semantic “priming,” have been called into question, leading some to conclude that the extent of unconscious processing is limited. A recent brain scanning study now shows that unconsciously processed visual information is distributed to a wider network of brain regions involved in higher-order cognitive tasks. The results contribute to the debate over the extent to which unconscious information processing influence the brain and behavior and led the authors of the study to revise one of the leading theories of consciousness. Unconscious processing Ning Mei and his colleagues at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language in Spain recruited 7 participants and showed them visual images while scanning their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Half of the images were of living things, and the other half were of inanimate objects. All of them could be grouped into ten categories, such as animal or boat. The participants viewed a total of 1,728 images, presented in blocks of 32, over a six-day period, each with a one-hour scanning session. © Copyright 2007-2022 & BIG THINK,

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 28390 - Posted: 07.12.2022

By Joshua C. Kendall About 40 years ago, Daniel Bergner’s younger brother, Bob, then 21 and a college dropout, had a psychotic break. He became delusional; he was convinced that he might be the messiah and that he could cure their grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease. Worn down by insomnia, Bob was also neglecting his personal hygiene. Out of desperation, the brothers’ parents arranged to have Bob committed to a locked psychiatric unit, where he was soon pumped up on a heavy dose of Haldol, an antipsychotic medication. Shortly after Bob was hospitalized, their father handed Daniel a popular book by the late Ronald Fieve — first published in 1975— on mood disorders. According to this prominent psychopharmacologist, psychiatry was undergoing “a third revolution,” which was leading to new and highly effective drug cures for major mental disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. This book, notes Daniel Bergner in “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, The Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches,” gave his parents hope that his brother’s condition could be treated. “It was as if they had ingested the book’s sentences and elevated its paragraphs to articles of faith,” he writes. “They were immediate converts.” As Bergner, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, emphasizes in his moving narrative, the chief claim contained in that bestseller of yesteryear — that mental illnesses are diseases for which there exist chemical cures — ended up gaining a lot of traction. But Bergner himself has long harbored reservations about such biological reductionism.

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Depression
Link ID: 28389 - Posted: 07.12.2022

By Paula Span Dementia cases are climbing along with an aging world population, and yet another much-anticipated Alzheimer’s medication, crenezumab, has proved ineffective in clinical trials — the latest of many disappointments. Public health experts and researchers argue that it is past time to turn our attention to a different approach — focusing on eliminating a dozen or so already known risk factors, like untreated high blood pressure, hearing loss and smoking, rather than on an exorbitantly priced, whiz-bang new drug. “It would be great if we had drugs that worked,” said Dr. Gill Livingston, a psychiatrist at University College London and chair of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care. “But they’re not the only way forward.” Emphasizing modifiable risks — things we know how to change — represents “a drastic change in concept,” said Dr. Julio Rojas, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco. By focusing on behaviors and interventions that are already widely available and for which there is strong evidence, “we are changing how we understand the way dementia develops,” he said. The latest modifiable risk factor was identified in a study of vision impairment in the United States that was published recently in JAMA Neurology. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers estimated that about 62 percent of current dementia cases could have been prevented across risk factors and that 1.8 percent — about 100,000 cases — could have been prevented through healthy vision. Though that’s a fairly small percentage, it represents a comparatively easy fix, said Dr. Joshua Ehrlich, an ophthalmologist and population health researcher at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers; Vision
Link ID: 28388 - Posted: 07.05.2022

By Meghan Rosen A flexible electronic implant could one day make pain management a lot more chill. Created from materials that dissolve in the body, the device encircles nerves with an evaporative cooler. Implanted in rats, the cooler blocked pain signals from zipping up to the brain, bioengineer John Rogers and colleagues report in the July 1 Science. Though far from ready for human use, a future version could potentially let “patients dial up or down the pain relief they need at any given moment,” says Rogers, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Scientists already knew that low temperatures can numb nerves in the body. Think of frozen fingers in the winter, Rogers says. But mimicking this phenomenon with an electronic implant isn’t easy. Nerves are fragile, so scientists need something that gently hugs the tissues. And an ideal implant would be absorbed by the body, so doctors wouldn’t have to remove it. Made from water-soluble materials, the team’s device features a soft cuff that wraps around a nerve like toilet paper on a roll. Tiny channels snake down its rubbery length. When liquid coolant that’s pumped through the channels evaporates, the process draws heat from the underlying nerve. A temperature sensor helps scientists hit the sweet spot — cold enough to block pain but not too cold to damage the nerve. The researchers wrapped the implant around a nerve in rats and tested how they responded to having a paw poked. With the nerve cooler switched on, scientists could apply about seven times as much pressure as usual before the animals pulled their paws away. That’s a sign that the rats’ senses had grown sluggish, Rogers says. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 28387 - Posted: 07.05.2022

Shogo Sato Anyone who has suffered from jet lag or struggled after turning the clock forward or back an hour for daylight saving time knows all about what researchers call your biological clock, or circadian rhythm – the “master pacemaker” that synchronizes how your body responds to the passing of one day to the next. This “clock” is made up of about 20,000 neurons in the hypothalamus, the area near the center of the brain that coordinates your body’s unconscious functions, like breathing and blood pressure. Humans aren’t the only beings that have an internal clock system: All vertebrates – or mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish – have biological clocks, as do plants, fungi and bacteria. Biological clocks are why cats are most active at dawn and dusk, and why flowers bloom at certain times of day. Circadian rhythms are also essential to health and well-being. They govern your body’s physical, mental and behavioral changes over each 24-hour cycle in response to environmental cues like light and food. They’re why more heart attacks and strokes occur early in the morning. They’re also why mice that are missing their biological clocks age faster and have shorter lifespans, and people with a mutation in their circadian clock genes have abnormal sleep patterns. Chronic misalignment of your circadian rhythm with external cues, as seen in night-shift workers, can lead to a wide range of physical and mental disorders, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In short, there is ample evidence that your biological clock is critical to your health. And chronobiologists like me are studying how the day-night cycle affects your body to better understand how you can modify your behaviors to use your internal clock to your advantage. © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 28386 - Posted: 07.05.2022

Viviane Callier The aging brains of people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases are suffused with telltale aggregates of proteins in or around their neurons. How these protein clumps might be harming the neurons is often still unclear, but they are hallmarks of the conditions — and until now, they have been associated almost exclusively with elderly brains. But a recent study by a team of Stanford University researchers suggests that protein aggregation may be a universal phenomenon in aging cells and could be involved in many more diseases of aging than was suspected. Their discovery points to a new way of thinking about what goes wrong in cells as they age and, potentially, to new ways of staving off some consequences of the aging process. “This is widespread — it’s not just one specific tissue, it’s lots of different tissues,” said Della David, a researcher on aging at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England, who was not part of the study. The research also highlights that protein aggregation is tightly bound up with essential mechanisms that allow cells to regulate their physiologies with exquisite delicacy. Biologists will need to assess carefully, possibly on a case-by-case basis, whether protein aggregates represent a threat to cells or a defense they have created. The new work, which was posted to the preprint server in March, is the first attempt to quantify how much protein aggregation occurs throughout the body during the natural aging of a vertebrate animal — in this case, a very short-lived fish. The study showed that protein aggregation probably contributes to the gradual deterioration of many tissues over time. The findings even offer a hint about why these aggregates are so much more obvious in the brain than in other tissues: It may be because brains have been evolving so rapidly.

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 28385 - Posted: 06.30.2022