Health & Wellness

Study: Listening To Music May Help People With Epilepsy

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Despite the rise in popularity of medical marijuana for epilepsy, a news study suggests that music may be able to alleviate the disorder.

Scientists from the The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center discovered that listening to music affects the brainwave activity in epileptic patients, leading to a potential treatment in preventing epileptic seizures. According to a news release, the study involve collection of data from 21 epilepsy patients at the medical center from September 2012 to May 2014. Music was played to the patients who were hooked up to an electroencephalogram, a device that monitors brainwave activity. Songs used in the test were My Favorite Things by John Coltrane, Andante Movement II K.448, and Mozart’s Sonata in D Major. The experiments were conducted in people with and without epilepsy.

Results showed increased brainwave activity in all test subjects when the music was played. A more significant development was observed in epileptic patients, as their brainwave patterns were in sync with the music that they were listening to. “We hypothesized that music would be processed in the brain differently than silence. We did not know if this would be the same or different for people with epilepsy,” said study co-author Christine Charyton, PhD.

The researchers believe that their findings will lead to a new kind of treatment for epilepsy patients who want to prevent seizures from happening. “We believe that music could potentially be used as an intervention to help people with epilepsy,” Charyton added.

Majority of epilepsy cases come in the form of temporal lobe epilepsy, wherein the brain’s temporal lobe produce the seizures. A portion of the temporal lobe — called the auditory complex — processes music and sound.


Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

New Drug May be Able to Erase Memories Associated with Drug Addiction

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A new drug may be able to help drug addicts by erasing memories they have that are associated with their drug of choice, effectively getting rid of the triggers that cause relapses.

In a study, published in the journal Molecular Psychology, researchers outline how they used the drug blebbistatin to target nonmuscle myosin II (NMII), a component in the brain that is involved in the creation of new memories. By getting rid of memories that are associated with triggers — memories attached to certain objects, or events, will often make addicts feel the need to use their drug of choice — researchers at The Scripps Research Institute hope to make it easier for addicts to live a drug-free life.

“We now have a viable target and by blocking the target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact,” TSRI Associate Professor Courtney Miller said in a recent press release . “The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual’s triggers.”

They injected blebbistatin into animal models along with methamphetamine and found that with only one injection of this compound, long-term, drug-related memories were completely blocked in the animals. Plus, the animals did not relapse for at least a month after receiving the injection.

The team was enthusiastic about its results, finding that this new pathway helps to erase triggers that often lead to relapses. Even more promising is that the injection of blebbistatin can be administered to any part of the body, whereas previous compounds meant to erase these trigger memories had to be injected directly into the brain.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Meditation May Help To Quit Smoking, Scientists Say

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A joint research by the University of Oregon and Texas Tech University discovered that relaxation is an effective tool to prevent people from smoking. The study was conducted on 60 students — with about half of the test population being smokers — who were sent to do relaxation exercises. There were two options for relaxation: muscle relaxation or mindful meditation.

Results of the study revealed a significant improvement in the smoking habits of those who engaged in mental relaxation. The researchers investigated several angles that may cause people to stop smoking. “We then measured intention to see if it correlated with smoking changes and found there was no correlation… But if you improve the self-control network in the brain and moderate stress-reactivity, then it’s possible to reduce smoking,” Lead study author Yi-Yuan Tang mentioned via a news item.

Tang said that the respondents did not realize the effect of the meditation immediately. “The students changed their smoking behavior but were not aware of it… When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left,” Tang added.

Details of the study were published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.


Medical Marijuana

Michigan Review Panel Includes Autism As Condition For Medical Marijuana Prescription

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The Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel has recommended to include autism as one of the health conditions that the state approves for medical marijuana treatment. The recommendation, which the panel released on July 31, is one step closer to giving autistic kids an additional method of treatment. The final decision, however, will come from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

This bit of news came as a surprise to parents of autistic children and medical marijuana advocates, who said that they expected a negative response from the panel. One of the petitions that convinced the panel was the case of Lisa Smith, who administers cannabis oil to her child diagnosed with autism. The drug has helped the 6-year-old kid sleep and eat better, according to a news release. A medical marijuana user herself due to her epilepsy, Smith was able to use marijuana to alleviate her child’s condition. “She’s heroic in that she came forward and was able to tell her story so that this could happen,” said Michael Komorn, who serves as Smith’s attorney.

The strong support for medical marijuana treatment for autism pushed the review panel to reconsider and eventually recommend the cause. “The parents I’ve talked to are passionate and adamant that this represents a dramatic improvement in the quality of life for them and their affected children,” said panel member David Crocker.


Health & Wellness

New Study Finds No Link Between Transgender and Hormone Imbalance

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Transgendered youth are not suffering from hormone imbalances a new study has claimed.

“We’ve now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of a hormone imbalance,” study author Dr. Johanna Olson of the Center for Transyouth Health at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) said. “It’s not.”

Olson and colleagues conducted the study to assess the safety and effectiveness of treatments that would help transgender patients bring their bodies closer in alignment to their gender identity. It has long been theorized that transgender youth might just be suffering from some kind of hormone imbalance that caused them gender confusion.

The researchers studied 101 transgender young people, ages 12 to 24. More than 50 percent of the participants were assigned male at birth, and 48 percent were assigned female at birth.

After measuring a number of physiological parameters, the researchers discovered that the participants’ hormone levels were in line with the normal ranges of the same assigned sex nontransgender youth population.

According to the researchers, the average age that participants discovered a gender discrepancy was the age of 8, but they did not tell their families about this until reaching, on average, the age of 17.


Health & Wellness

New Fat Blocker Foreseen As Antiobesity Drug

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Micelle sequestrant polymers. Remember that term because this might hold the key towards addressing the long-standing problem on obesity.

The term describes a specific group of compounds that aim to prevent the absorption of fat particles. These fat-blocking compounds could be the potential answer to uncontrolled weight gain, according to a research team led by Cory Berkland of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. The researchers explained in a news release that the polymers bind with intestinal fat globules — called micelles — and prevent them from getting absorbed through the intestinal tract. The bind complex is instead excreted from the body.

Initial trials were conducted on lab mice, which were found to have up to ten times the amount of fat in their fecal matter than the control group. The researchers believe that this class of compounds could pave the way for more long-term methods for treatment of obesity. Antiobesity drugs currently in the market are known to have major side effects such as depression and heart ailments.

The study was published in Biomacromolecules, a journal by the American Chemical Society.



Diabetes Hotline Helps Maintain Blood Sugar in People From Minority Areas

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A recent study successfully conducted a clinical trial that aims to prove that telephone counseling is a cost-effective method to help people maintain their blood sugar and keep diabetes complications at bay.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sought to discover more effective ways to assist people diagnosed with diabetes in regulating their blood sugar levels. Dr. Elizabeth A. Walker, who facilitated the trials, expressed the need for a more personal approach in treating diabetes aside from insulin shots and informational brochures. “People with diabetes need ongoing counseling about problem-solving and goal-setting for behavior change,” Walker said via a news item.

Close to 1,000 adult diabetics residing in the South Bronx took part in the trial, courtesy of the Health Department’s A1c Registry. One year after receiving self-help brochures and random phone calls from health educators involved in the study, the participants were monitored for any changes in their A1c (an indication of a person’s long-term blood sugar level).

Results showed that for patients with extremely high A1c levels at the beginning of the trial, those who received help via phone experienced an 18-percent decrease in their A1c.

The study proponents believe that this kind of approach can do wonders to the lives of diabetic patients and their families. “An intervention like this can be adopted by health systems and other organizations looking to improve diabetes outcomes through diabetes self-management interventions,” said study lead author Dr. Shadi Chamany.

The trials were conducted by a research team from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in coordination with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women Don’t Need To ‘Eat For Two’, Says Study

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The common misconception that pregnant mothers need to eat more to supply for the child’s development has been debunked by a recent study.

According to a group of international researchers, the digestive system of the mother adjusts to the presence of the baby, allowing for increased absorption of energy even with the same amount of food intake.

The study, published in the eLife journal, investigated the fruit fly as a model for human anatomy. Study co-author Dr. Jake Jacobson of the Clinical Sciences Centre of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in London explained that the biology inside the body of a fruit fly is similar to humans. “Many of the fly genes that we studied exist in humans. Flies also utilize and store fat like we do, and their metabolism is controlled by similar hormones,” Jacobson said in a news release. Results of the study may also explain the reason why many women find it difficult to get rid of excess weight after pregnancy.

Through the study, a newly discovered hormone — called “juvenile hormone” — commands the digestive system to prepare for the growth of an additional human being in the mother’s body. This particular hormone was found to alter the metabolism of fat in the body. “This research points to a new scientific explanation why eating for two during pregnancy is not necessary, and may even be harmful, as a growing body of evidence indicates that a mother’s diet can impact a child’s propensity to be obese in later life,” said MRC population and systems medicine chief Dr. Joe McNamara.


Drug Testing

Company Receives Grant to Develop Instant Saliva Drug Test to Combat Drugged Driving

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A company that is developing an instant test that will be used to identify drugged drivers has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant to aid with development of the test.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the grant worth $150,000 to Diagnostic anSERS to help the company progress its development of a paper-based test strip to enable instant roadside screening for driver drug impairment.

Currently, Diagnostic anSERS’s makes ink-jet printed sensors (called P-SERS™) that are able to detect traces of a wide variety of chemicals, including narcotics, pesticides, and explosives. This Phase I SBIR will help the company to develop modified P-SERS™ sensors that will be able to detect traces of drugs in saliva.

This new saliva test will allow a police officer to more accurately determine if a driver is currently under the influence of an illegal drug, as opposed to existing urine and hair tests which only identify prior drug usage.

The need to identify if drivers are under the influence of drugs is particularly pressing, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey found that 13.6% of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal drugs, as compared to only 1.5% being drunk.

At present, no effective roadside drug intoxication test exists. To help combat drugged driving, most states currently employ Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to identify a variety of signs indicative of drug use, such as coordination and pupil size. However, use of DREs is expensive and time consuming.

“We have interviewed numerous law enforcement officials about their needs, and this was, by far, the biggest and most urgent one,” Sean Virgile, co-founder of Diagnostic anSERS said in a news release. “Right now, officers have to either rely on highly trained, highly paid Drug Recognition Experts or let the suspect go. There is no existing cost-effective solution.”

With the grant, Diagnostic anSERS hopes to cut down on the amount of drivers under the influence of drugs, a problem that is expected to grow with the societal shift toward decriminalization of marijuana.

[Photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert on Flickr]


Substance Abuse

People Who Succeed Later In Life Have Higher Risk of Harmful Alcohol Intake

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A recent study published in BMJ Open revealed that people at least 50 years old who are at the pink of health and height of success are more prone to drinking unhealthily.

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ aging process,” said study author Prof. José Iparraguirre of Age UK’s research department.

The study was based on data of close to 10,000 individuals 50 years old and above, who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA) for 2008-2009 and 2010-2011. Survey respondents were asked about their alcohol consumption per week, status in life, diet and physical activity, self-assessment of health, and level of social stature.

Results showed that harmful drinking — defined as downing 50 units of alcohol for men and 35 units for women on a weekly basis — was more likely in women who were rich. It was also found in both men and women who experience “good health, smoking and higher educational attainment,” as reported in a news release.

The study author believes that poor drinking habits are signs of deep-rooted issues in successful individuals. “Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people. Consequently, and based on our results, we recommend the explicit incorporation of alcohol drinking levels and patterns into the successful aging paradigm,” Iparraguirre added.