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Zapping the brain with electricity could improve memory

Zapping the brain with low levels of electricity may help improve the short-term memory of those suffering major neurological injuries, a new study found

The research found applying a low voltage current can help people perform better on tasks such as remembering new names or a shopping list, express.co.uk reported.

Scientists hope the technique could one day be used to bypass damaged areas of the brain and relay signals in people who have suffered a traumatic injury, stroke or epilepsy.

In the brain there are a huge number of messages being sent at the same time, with brainwaves working at different frequencies and in different regions keeping a steady ‘beat’.

The research team from Imperial College London found weak electrical current through the scalp helps align different parts of the brain, synchronizing their brain waves and enabling them to keep the same beat.

Neuroscientist Dr. Ines Ribeiro Violante, who led the research, said: “What we observed is that people performed better when the two waves had the same rhythm and at the same time.”

Senior author of the paper Professor David Sharp, said: “We are very excited about the potential of brain stimulation to treat patients.

“I work with patients who often have major problems with working memory after their head injuries, so it would be great to have a way to enhance our current treatments, which may not always work for them.

“Our next step is to try the approach out in our patients and we will see whether combining it with cognitive training can restore lost skills.”

The study, published in the journal eLife, used a technique called transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) to manipulate the brain’s regular rhythm.

They found that buzzing the brain with electricity could give a performance boost to the same memory processes used when trying to remember names at a party, phone numbers or even a short grocery list.

The researchers targeted the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule parts of the brain, which are known to be involved in working memory.

Volunteers carried out memory tests which increased in difficulty while receiving electrical stimulation to those two parts of the brain wither at differently times, the same times or in a quick burst.

The results showed when the brain regions were stimulated in sync, reaction times on the memory tasks improved, especially on the harder tasks which required volunteers to hold two strings of numbers in their minds.

Violante said: “The classic behavior is to do slower on the harder cognitive task, but people performed faster with synchronized stimulation and as fast as on the simpler task.”

Previous studies have shown brain stimulation with electromagnetic waves or electrical current affect brain activity, but the field has remained controversial due to a lack of reproducibility.

However with an MRI scanner, the team, in collaboration with University Collage London, was able to show changes in activity occurring during stimulation, with the electrical current potentially modulating the flow of information.

Violante added: “We can use TACS to manipulate the activity of key brain networks and we can see what’s happening with MRI.

“The results show that when the stimulation was in sync, there was an increase in activity in those regions involved in the task. When it was out of sync the opposite effect was seen.”

However making the treatment available to the wider public may be difficult due to the individual nature of people’s brain.

The researchers say not only do the electrodes have to get the right frequency, but target it to the right part of the brain and get the beat in time.

Violante added: “We use a very cheap technique, and that’s one of the advantages we hope it will bring if it’s translatable to the clinic.

“The next step is to see if the brain stimulation works in patients with brain injury, in combination with brain imaging, where patients have lesions which impair long range communication in their brains.

“The hope is that it could eventually be used for these patients, or even those who have suffered a stroke or who have epilepsy.”

Seven Tips For Good Physical Health

it’s Nigel your captain and coach for Flight 101 with its destination Money and Abundance. This week I will continue with this month’s abundance theme. Having good physical health is vital to living an abundant lifestyle. So, I thought I will share with you 7 tips  for good physical health. I am also going to challenge you to take up one tip that you have not done yet, and make it part of your routine this week.

How often have you heard the saying, the good things in life are free, yet we neglect this simple but profound message. Daily we are bombarded by various advertisements beseeching us to use this and use that to enhance our physical health and well-being

With our focus on the externals, we neglect the most fundamental voice that there is, our body, which speaks to us constantly if only we would but listen. Unfortunately, sometimes it requires severe pain and stress or an illness for us to take heed

In these times of rapid change, you need to take time for yourself. Whether, you are in a 9 to 5 job or a stay at home mom, you need to find some time to nurture you. When you give away all of your energy to others and nothing is coming back, you become exhausted and burned out

: So here are 7 tips for good physical health

 Eat more vegetables and fruits

If you are overweight, underweight, or obese, consult a nutritionist about changing your dietary practices and food choices

Exercise while you do your housework or yard work, and involve your whole family

Pick up fun activities you can do by yourself or with family and friends: run, skip, play games, dance, hike, walk

Take up a tai chi or some form of martial arts for mind, body, soul balancing, stretching exercises and feeling at one with nature

Volunteer and help the less fortunate, you’ll feel much better about your life

Bring laughter into your life daily

No matter your age or your physical condition, (if you are reading these words you are exercising your eyes) you can improve your health and well-being and live a more abundant life

Scientists identify anti-Zika antibodies in mice

Publish Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2016 14:10:26 GMT

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis made the achievement by infecting mice with Zika virus, which allowed the animals’ immune systems to produce anti-Zika antibodies, news.xinhuanet.com wrote.

Six antibodies were found, and from these, four were able to effectively prevent or treat Zika infection in cells and in mice, they reported.

“Importantly, some of our antibodies are able to neutralize African, Asian and American strains of Zika virus to about the same degree,” Daved Fremont, a professor of pathology and immunology and a co-senior author on the paper, said.

The study also showed that the antibodies bound exclusively to Zika and not to related viruses, which means they are specific enough to be used in diagnostic tests.

Then, they used a technique called X-ray crystallography to zero in on the binding site and found the two most protective antibodies bound to the same region of a particular Zika protein, the envelope protein that covers the surface of the virus.

“This is the first step toward optimizing current vaccine strategies and potentially developing antibody-based therapeutics as well as augmenting efforts for generating diagnostics that would specifically differentiate Zika viruses from other related flaviviruses,” said infectious disease researcher Michael Diamond, the other coauthor on the paper.

The researchers noted that the key question of whether Zika neutralizing antibodies could protect pregnant women and their developing fetuses remains to be answered.

Due to significant differences in gestational features between mice and humans, antibody protection studies may require experiments in other mammals, such as non-human primates, that allow for optimal transfer of antibodies from the mother to the fetus, as occurs in humans, they said.

Currently, there are no specific treatments for Zika virus infection, and women who become infected while pregnant are at risk of having babies with severe congenital abnormalities.

Opioids not ideal for sickle cell patients’ pain management

Publish Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:38:41 GMT

Opioid painkillers are slowly being questioned as the best option for pain management as studies suggest they may prolong pain or make it worse, and a new study suggests the drugs may not be the best option for sickle cell disease patients who often experience excruciating pain.

Some sickle cell disease patients with chronic pain could be getting worse because of their treatment with opioids, researchers at Johns Hopkins University report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, upi.com wrote.

Sickle cell disease, which affects mostly black Americans, is a genetic blood disorder that causes hemoglobin in red blood cells to change shape, clogging up blood vessels, cutting off oxygen to the body and causing severe pain for the roughly 100,000 people in the US who have the condition.

During episodes of clogged blood vessels, called crises, patients are often treated for pain with strong opioid painkillers.

Improved treatment of the condition, however, has led to patients living longer with it, developing chronic pain conditions, which are often treated with long-term prescriptions for opioid-based drugs.

Questioning whether the long-term use of these drugs actually improved the condition of patients — especially considering recent research in animals suggesting the drugs can make pain worse the longer they are used — researchers involved with the recent study found those on opioids may actually be in worse condition.

“We need to better understand how long-term opioid use affects pain sensitization and determine if certain people are more sensitive to these effects so we can prescribe the best treatment option for each individual patient,” Dr. Pat Carroll, director of psychiatric services for the Johns Hopkins Sickle Cell Center for Adults, said.

“We also need to learn more about how sickle cell disease may sensitize the nervous system.”

For the new study, researchers recruited 83 people with sickle cell disease, 57 of whom were women and 26 were men, with an average age of 39. Of the patients, 29 were treated for chronic pain associated with sickle cell using long-acting opioids and 54 were not being treated with the drugs.

Filling out questionnaires between January 2010 and June 2014, the patients recorded daily pain, crises, function and any use of healthcare services for 90 days.

Overall, patients prescribed opioids for pain reported 32 percent higher levels of clinical pain, central sensitization and depression, as well as more days in crisis.

Participants not on long-term opioid treatment plans had lower levels of central sensitization, and reported three times less noncrisis pain intensity than those on the drugs.

“We need to be careful and skeptical about giving increasing doses of opioids to patients with sickle cell disease who are in chronic pain if it isn’t effective,” Carroll said.

“Too little is known about the effects of long-term opioid management of chronic pain.”

Researchers find new genetic target for PTSD treatment

Publish Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:33:58 GMT

Although genetic risk factors for post traumatic stress disorder have been identified before, researchers in a recent study in Los Angeles went looking for genetic factors that affect the manifestation of symptoms in the disorder, finding a potential target for new treatment.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found blocking a gene associated with fear learning prevented mice from learning fear, or even expressing it after learning fear, suggesting new ways to treat the effects of PTSD, UPI wrote.

Biomarkers have previously been identified thought to help predict risk for PTSD, though researchers in the new study were specifically looking for genes that may indicate risk for ‘high’ or ‘low’ expression of symptoms, they say.

“We’re suggesting that instead of focusing only on the genes that are thought to cause a disorder — for example, PTSD or anxiety disorder — it is important to discover those genes that can have a profound effect on how severely an individual is impacted by their disorder,” Dr. Pat Levitt, a professor of pediatrics, neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmacy at the University of Southern California, said in a press release.

For the study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers tested mice with a wide range of high and low anxiety to see how well they learned to detect threats — normal fear learning.

When fear learning is exaggerated, symptoms of anxiety and PTSD can develop.

Researchers mapped the genomes of 65 mouse strains, finding genes related to fear acquisition and fear expression, finding one, the Hcn1 gene, is necessary for both.

Researchers found blocking expression of the Hcn1 gene prevented the mice from displaying fears they had already acquired, and by blocking the gene before entering a situation where they may learn fear, the mice did not acquire the instinct.

Dr. Allison Knoll, a post-doctoral researcher at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said, “By understanding the biological origins of individual behavioral differences — in this case a measure of anxiety — we can move beyond a single disorder diagnosis and treat the dimensions that produce a behavior spanning a multitude of diagnoses.”

Running may be better than cycling for long-term bone health

Publish Date: sat, 18 Jun 2016 11:07:19 GMT

Exercise that puts greater strain on bones, like running, may improve long-term bone health more effectively than non weight-bearing activities like cycling, conclude the authors of a new study measuring the hormones of mountain ultra-marathon runners.

Previous research from the Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi in Milan found that cyclists racing in ultra-endurance conditions suffered chronic bone resorption — where calcium from bone is released into the blood stream, weakening bones. In this study, the same group set to find out whether a similar group of elite athletes — mountain ultra-marathon runners — had the same response, sciencedaily.com reported.

The researchers measured two vital bone constituents as well as hormones associated with energy regulation. Osteocalcin and P1NP are two proteins associated with bone formation and their levels in blood are an indicator of bone health. Glucagon, leptin and insulin are hormones involved in regulating metabolism and indicate the body’s energy needs. Increasing glucagon levels indicate an energy demand, whilst increasing insulin and leptin levels indicate adequate or excessive energy levels.

The researchers measured these three hormones as well as levels of osteocalcin and P1NP in 17 trained runners before and after a 65-km mountain ultramarathon run and compared it to the hormones and bone constituents of twelve adults of the same age who didn’t run the race but did low to moderate physical exercise.

Compared to the control group, ultramarathon runners had higher levels of glucagon and lower levels of leptin and insulin when finishing the race. The falling levels of insulin within this group were linked to similarly falling levels of both osteocalcin and P1NP — suggesting that athletes may be diverting energy from bone formation to power the high-energy demands of their metabolism. However, ultramarathon runners had higher P1NP levels at rest compared to controls, suggesting that they may divert energy from bones during racing but have a net gain in bone health in the long-term.

“The every-day man and woman need to exercise moderately to maintain health,” said Dr. Giovanni Lombardi, lead author of the study. “However, our findings suggest that those at risk of weaker bones might want to take up running rather than swimming or cycling.”

One theory that could explain the effect of different exercises on bone formation is the role of osteocalcin, explains Lombardi. “Previous studies have shown that osteocalcin communicates with beta cells in the pancreas, which regulate the body’s glucose metabolism,” he said. “Because running exerts a higher physical load on bone than swimming or cycling, it could be that these forces stimulate bone tissue to signal to the pancreas to help meet its energy needs in the long-term.”

“Our work has shown that bones aren’t just lying idle, but are actively communicating with other organs and tissues to drive the body’s energy needs,” said Lombardi. “We often find that metabolic conditions and fracture risks are linked to the same underlying condition, so the more we learn about the interaction between bones and body metabolism, the better we will understand complex but important diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis.”

Popular diet plans may help ease type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes may get some help with blood sugar control from a few commercial weight-loss programs, but conclusive evidence on most plans is lacking, a new review finds.

Researchers reviewed 18 published studies. The studies looked at 10 popular, commercial weight-loss programs that involved a total of 764 people with type 2 diabetes, UPI wrote.

Three programs — Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Optifast — seemed to reduce blood sugar levels more than when people received weight-loss counseling alone, the review found.

“A few of these programs may be a viable option for improving blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes and those at risk for the disease, but we need more gold-standard studies to make that claim,” said review leader Dr. Zoobia Chaudhry.

Chaudhry is an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers said it’s possible that other commercial weight-loss programs may help lower blood sugar levels, but there’s currently not enough evidence to say so.

Chaudhry noted that there is a link between being overweight or obese and developing type 2 diabetes. She said that previous research has shown that losing even a small amount of body weight — five to ten percent — can help lead to long-term blood sugar reductions in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, that research was mostly based on intensive lifestyle change programs that include carefully controlled diets and guided exercise.

Such programs aren’t readily available to most of the estimated 29 million people in the United States with type 2 diabetes, Chaudhry said in a university news release.

The review also looked at information from more than 2,400 people who didn’t have type 2 diabetes. None of the commercial weight-loss programs in the review led to lower blood sugar in people without diabetes, the study authors said.

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