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Showing posts from January, 2015

INFANTS CREATE NEW KNOWLEDGE WHILE SLEEPING

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There is no rest for a baby's brain -- not even in sleep. While infants sleep they are reprocessing what they have learned. Working with researchers from the University of Tübingen, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have discovered that babies of the age from 9 to 16 months remember the names of objects better if they had a short nap. And only after sleeping can they transfer learned names to similar new objects. The infant brain thus forms general categories during sleep, converting experience into knowledge. The researchers also showed that the formation of categories is closely related to a typical rhythmic activity of the sleeping brain called sleep spindles: Infants with high sleep spindle activity are particularly good at generalizing their experiences and developing new knowledge while sleeping. Sleep means much more than just relaxation for our brain. The flow of information from the sensory organs is largely cut off …

DRINKING BEET ROOT JUICE BEFORE EXERCISE BENEFITS HEART PATIENTS

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A small yet significant study shows that beetroot juice improves exercise function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. The new research by Wake Forest University looked at a small group of COPD patients who drank beetroot juice as compared to a placebo drink before exercise. “The intent of this study was to determine if acute ingestion of beetroot juice, which is rich with nitrates, prior to exercising could improve the exercise capacity of COPD patients,” said Michael Berry, chair of Wake Forest’s department of health and exercise science. COPD makes it difficult for patients to breathe and worsens over time. In turn, they tend to limit their activities, become more sedentary, and lose fitness and physical function. The findings showed overall that those patients who drank beetroot juice were able to extend their exercise time and had reduced exercise diastolic and resting systolic blood pressures. “This is the first study to demonstrate beneficial effects of dietary …

HOW SLEEP, MEMORY GO HAND IN HAND

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Want to ace that test tomorrow? Here's a tip: Put down the coffee and hit the sack. Scientists have long known that sleep, memory and learning are deeply connected. Most animals, from flies to humans, have trouble remembering when sleep deprived, and studies have shown that sleep is critical in converting short-term into long-term memory, a process known as memory consolidation. But just how that process works has remained a mystery. The question is, does the mechanism that promotes sleep also consolidate memory, or do two distinct processes work together? In other words, is memory consolidated during sleep because the brain is quiet, allowing memory neurons to go to work, or are memory neurons actually putting us to sleep? In a recent paper in the journal eLife, graduate students Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann in the Griffith Lab make a case for the latter. Haynes and Christmann focused their research on dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, well-known memory consolidators in Droso…

FRIENDS KNOW HOW LONG YOU WILL LIVE

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Young lovers walking down the aisle may dream of long and healthy lives together, but close friends in the wedding party may have a better sense of whether those wishes will come true, suggests new research on personality and longevity from Washington University in St. Louis. You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave," said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences. Published Jan. 12 in an advance online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits. Male participants seen by their friends as more open and conscientious ended up living longer. Female participants whose friends rated them as high on emotional stability and agreeable…

TELOMERE EXTENSION TURNS BACK AGING CLOCK IN CULTURED HUMAN CELLS

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A new procedure can quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging and disease, according to scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying. The procedure, which involves the use of a modified type of RNA, will improve the ability of researchers to generate large numbers of cells for study or drug development, the scientists say. Skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide up to 40 more times than untreated cells. The research may point to new ways to treat diseases caused by shortened telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes, which house our genomes. In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division, …

REVOLUTIONARY DEVICE FOUND TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

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A revolutionary device has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure among patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure, compared to those treated with usual drug measures -- according to research from Queen Mary University of London and published inThe Lancet.
The device -- developed by ROX Medical and named the 'Coupler' -- is a paper clip sized implant which is inserted between the artery and vein in the upper thigh, in a procedure lasting around 40 minutes under local anaesthetic. Researchers led a randomised, blinded endpoint clinical trial with patients from multiple European Centres of Hypertension Excellence -- including the Barts Blood Pressure Clinic at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London -- all of whom had resistant high blood pressure and had not responded to at least three types of drug treatment. The team compared the effects of the Coupler versus usual medical treatment in 83 patients of whom 44 received the ROX Coupler therapy. Patients who received the…

MEN AND WOMEN PROCESS EMOTIONS DIFFERENTLY

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Women rate emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men do and are more likely to remember them. However, there are no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal as far as neutral images are concerned. These were the findings of a large-scale study by a research team at the University of Basel that focused on determining the gender-dependent relationship between emotions, memory performance and brain activity. The results will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. It is known that women often consider emotional events to be more emotionally stimulating than men do. Earlier studies have shown that emotions influence our memory: the more emotional a situation is, the more likely we are to remember it. This raises the question as to whether women often outperform men in memory tests because of the way they process emotions. A research team from the University of Basel's "Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences" Transfaculty Resear…

COFFEE PROTECT AGAINST MALIGNANT MELANOMA

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Both epidemiological and pre-clinical studies have suggested that coffee consumption has a protective effect against non-melanoma skin cancers. However the protective effect for cutaneous melanoma (malignant and in situ) is less clear, according to a study published January 20 in theJNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. To determine if there is an association between coffee consumption and risk of cutaneous melanoma, Erikka Loftfield, M.P.H., of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, and colleagues used data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Information on coffee consumption was obtained from 447,357 non-Hispanic white subjects with a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire in 1995/1996, with a median follow-up of 10 years. All subjects included in the analysis were cancer-free at baseline, and the authors adjusted for ambient residential ultraviolet radiation exposure, body mass index, age, sex, physical activity, alcohol i…

BABIES BORN AFTER INFERTILITY TREATMENT SHOWS SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT IN HEALTH

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The last two decades has seen a steady improvement in the health outcomes of children born after assisted reproduction (ART), with fewer babies being born preterm, with low birth weight, stillborn or dying within the first year of life. These findings come from the largest study to date to investigate the health of ART babies over time; data from more than 92,000 children in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden were analysed for the study, which is published online in Human Reproduction, one of the world's leading reproductive medicine journals. Dr Anna-Karina Aaris Henningsen, from the Fertility Clinic at the Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and her Nordic colleagues analysed the outcomes of 62,379 singletons (babies born alone) and 29,758 twins born between 1988 and 2007 in the four Nordic countries. They compared them with control groups of 362,215 spontaneously conceived singletons and 122,763 spontaneously conceived twins born in the same countries in the same …

BEST WAY TO POSITION WOMEN DURING CHILDBIRTH

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New research is challenging what many obstetricians and physician anesthesiologists believe is the best way to position women during labor. According to a study published in the February issue ofAnesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASAthe traditional practice of positioning women on their side, with hips tilted at 15 degrees, during labor does not effectively reduce compression of the inferior vena cava, a large vein located near the abdominal area that returns blood to the heart, as previously thought. In fact, not until the degree of tilt reached 30 degrees did blood flow only partially increase in patients, the study found. It is widely believed that lying women flat on their back during labor can lead to dangerously low blood pressure caused by the compression of both the inferior vena cava and the aorta due to the weight of the fetus," said Hideyuki Higuchi, M.D., study author, department of anesthesiology, Tokyo Women'…

OPTIMISTIC PEOPLE HAVE HEALTHIER HEARTS

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People who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health, suggests a new study that examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults. "Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts," said lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois. "This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health." Participants' cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use -- the same metrics used by the American Heart Association to define heart health and being targeted by the AHA in its Life's Simple 7 public awareness campaign. In accordance with AHA's hea…

AN AVOCADO A DAY MAY HELP KEEP BAD CHOLESTEROL AT BAY

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Eating one avocado a day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals, according to new research published in theJournal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. Forty-five healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put on three different cholesterol-lowering diets. Participants consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34 percent of calories from fat, 51 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol lowering diets: lower fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day. The two moderate fat diets both provided 34 percent of calories…

HUMANS, SPARROWS MAKE SENSE OF SOUNDS IN SIMILAR WAYS

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The song of the swamp sparrow -- a grey-breasted bird found in wetlands throughout much of North America -- is a simple melodious trill, repeated over and over again. It's kind of like a harmonious police whistle," said biologist Stephen Nowicki. But according to a new study by Duke University scientists Nowicki and Robert Lachlan, swamp sparrows are capable of processing the notes that make up their simple songs in more sophisticated ways than previously realized -- an ability that may help researchers better understand the perceptual building blocks that enable language in humans. The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From the finite types of sounds that make up a stream of speech -- such as the "c" sound in "cat" or the "b" sound in "boy" -- humans are able to create and make sense of an almost infinite number of words and sentences about the present, past and future, unconsciously and automati…