Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stem Cells Seem Safe in Treating Eye Disease

A treatment based on embryonic stem cells clears a key safety hurdle, and might help restore vision.
Link

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Buy Experiences, Not Things

Forty-seven percent of the time, the average mind is wandering. It wanders about a third of the time while a person is reading, talking with other people, or taking care of children. It wanders 10 percent of the time, even, during sex. And that wandering, according to psychologist Matthew Killingsworth, is not good for well-being. A mind belongs in one place. During his training at Harvard, Killingsworth compiled those numbers and built a scientific case for every cliché about living in the moment. In a 2010 Science paper co-authored with psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, the two wrote that "a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Link

Friday, October 10, 2014

Are We Really Conscious?

Third, what is the relationship between our minds and the physical world? Here, we don’t have a settled answer. We know something about the body and brain, but what about the subjective life inside? Consider that a computer, if hooked up to a camera, can process information about the wavelength of light and determine that grass is green. But we humans alsoexperience the greenness. We have an awareness of information we process. What is this mysterious aspect of ourselves?
Many theories have been proposed, but none has passed scientific muster. I believe a major change in our perspective on consciousness may be necessary, a shift from a credulous and egocentric viewpoint to a skeptical and slightly disconcerting one: namely, that we don’t actually have inner feelings in the way most of us think we do.
(..)
The brain builds models (or complex bundles of information) about items in the world, and those models are often not accurate. From that realization, a new perspective on consciousness has emerged in the work of philosophers like Patricia S. Churchland and Daniel C. Dennett. Here’s my way of putting it:
How does the brain go beyond processing information to become subjectively aware of information? The answer is: It doesn’t. The brain has arrived at a conclusion that is not correct. When we introspect and seem to find that ghostly thing — awareness, consciousness, the way green looks or pain feels — our cognitive machinery is accessing internal models and those models are providing information that is wrong. The machinery is computing an elaborate story about a magical-seeming property. And there is no way for the brain to determine through introspection that the story is wrong, because introspection always accesses the same incorrect information.
Link

Friday, October 03, 2014

How Exercise May Protect Against Depression

Exercise may help to safeguard the mind against depression through previously unknown effects on working muscles, according to a new study involving mice. The findings may have broad implications for anyone whose stress levels threaten to become emotionally overwhelming.
Link

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happiness: 10 Fascinating New Psychology Studies Everyone Should Know

From Psyblog..
Where we feel happiness in the body, how it affects our genetic code, why it changes with age, unexpected pleasures and much more…
Link

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kellogg Eye Center at U of Michigan is doing some cutting edge research in retinal disease
Link

Reuters | New KNFB smartphone app gives sight to the blind

National Federation of the Blind | Snap pictures, listen to printed text read aloud, store and share documents and more using the KNFB Reader iPhone app. The KNFB Reader app for iPhone is available in the Apple iTunes app store.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Does Your Toddler Need Glasses?

Toddlers wearing glasses look adorable, but the cuteness can cause problems. Many children who are still getting used to glasses find wearing them brings unwanted and unrelenting attention. Some people may even accuse parents of putting fake glasses on their children to be trendy.

Glasses have a serious function, though, and sometimes they are crucial to normal development of a child's vision and brain. Eyeglasses can fix more than near or farsightedness and may address common conditions such as amblyopia, or "lazy eye," and eye misalignment. Sometimes doctors require children to wear an eye patch to teach the brain to use vision stimulation from the weaker eye rather than ignore it.
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Moving fast to detect eyesight issues is crucial, doctors say, because correcting a child's vision early can help curb permanent damage.
"The brain is like cement hardening—you can't mold and shape it as easily the older children get," says Geoffrey Bradford, a professor of pediatric ophthalmology at West Virginia University School of Medicine and a member of the executive committee for ophthalmology for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The pediatrics group recommends that vision screening begin at age 3 during the annual check-up with a pediatrician. At every well-child appointment before age 3, including at birth, doctors typically look for irregularities in the eyes and ask whether parents have any vision concerns, Dr. Bradford says.
Patients who have a family history of eye problems, or who exhibit symptoms such as eyes crossing, drooping eyelids or infections, should seek earlier attention.
Meanwhile, the American Optometric Association recommends that all babies be examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist between the ages of six and 12 months, and annually after that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Doccupy, EHRs and the Affordable Care Act

It’s rare for doctors to turn out en masse for a public protest. But that’s what happened at “Doccupy” in Contra Costa County California in 2012. A group of safety net physicians testified before county supervisors — in what they only half-jokingly called “Doccupy” — that the cumbersome move to electronic health records (EHRs) had taken an enormous toll on patient care. The doctors saw half their usual number of patients. As a result, they told supervisors, one in ten patients left the emergency room without being seen and wait times ballooned from one to four hours — with one person waiting 40 hours for a hospital bed.
This protest came on the heels of a letter from a group of county jail nurses asserting concerns about the same electronic records system. A subsequent NYT article pointed out additional productivity and patient safety issues raised about electronic medical records at other locations, even from health care establishments as impressive as the Mayo Clinic.
It might be tempting to think of these stories as an aberrant blip. But surveys show Doccupy may have just been the first sign of trouble with electronic health records nationwide:
- See more at: http://www.docgurley.com/2014/02/doccupy-ehrs-affordable-care-act/#sthash.s8rcDZ9K.dpuf
Link

Is Exercise Bad for Your Teeth?

Vigorous exercise is good for almost all of the body — except perhaps the teeth, according to a surprising new study of athletes. The study, published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, found that heavy training may contribute to dental problems in unexpected ways.
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Compared with the control group, the athletes showed significantly greater erosion of their tooth enamel. They also tended to have more cavities, with the risk increasing as an athlete’s training time grew. Over all, the more hours that an athlete spent working out, the more likely he or she was to have cavities.
The researchers found no correlation, however, between consuming sports drinks or any other elements of the athletes’ diets and their oral health.
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The extent of the changes in the athletes’ saliva during a workout were something of a surprise, said Dr. Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg, who led the study.
Link

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Training Dogs to Sniff Out Cancer

Since 2004, research has begun to accumulate suggesting that dogs may be able to smell the subtle chemical differences between healthy and cancerous tissue, including bladder cancer, melanomaand cancers of the lung, breast and prostate. But scientists debate whether the research will result in useful medical applications.

Dogs have already been trained to respond to diabetic emergencies, or alert passers-by if an owner is about to have a seizure. And on the cancer front, nonprofit organizations like the In Situ Foundation, based in California, and the Medical Detection Dogs charity in Britain are among a growing number of independent groups sponsoring research into the area.
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The next step will be to build a mechanical, hand-held sensor that can detect that cancer chemical in the clinic. That’s where Charlie Johnson a professor at Penn who specializes in experimental nanophysics, the study of molecular interactions between microscopic materials, comes in.
He is developing what he calls Cyborg sensors, which include biological and mechanical components – a combination of carbon nanotubes and single-stranded DNA that preferentially bond with one specific chemical compound. These precise sensors, in theory, could be programmed to bind to, and detect, the isolated compounds that Dr. Otto’s dogs are singling out.
“We are effectively building an electronic nose,” said Dr. Johnson, who added that a prototype for his ovarian cancer sensor will probably be ready
in the next five years.
Some experts remain skeptical.
Link

Learning How to Exert Self-Control

PARIS — NOT many Ivy League professors are associated with a type of candy. But Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia, doesn’t mind being one of them.
“I’m the marshmallow man,” he says, with a modest shrug.
I’m with Mr. Mischel (pronounced me-SHELL) in his tiny home office in Paris, where he spends the summer with his girlfriend. We’re watching grainy video footage of preschoolers taking the “marshmallow test,” the legendary experiment on self-control that he invented nearly 50 years ago. In the video, a succession of 5-year-olds sit at a table with cookies on it (the kids could pick their own treats). If they resist eating anything for 15 minutes, they get two cookies; otherwise they just get one.
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Famously, preschoolers who waited longest for the marshmallow went on to have higher SAT scores than the ones who couldn’t wait. In later years they were thinner, earned more advanced degrees, used less cocaine, and coped better with stress. As these first marshmallow kids now enter their 50s, Mr. Mischel and colleagues are investigating whether the good delayers are richer, too.
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Part of what adults need to learn about self-control is in those videos of 5-year-olds. The children who succeed turn their backs on the cookie, push it away, pretend it’s something nonedible like a piece of wood, or invent a song. Instead of staring down the cookie, they transform it into something with less of a throbbing pull on them.
Adults can use similar methods of distraction and distancing, he says. Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table. In moments of emotional distress, imagine that you’re viewing yourself from outside, or consider what someone else would do in your place. When a waiter offers chocolate mousse, imagine that a cockroach has just crawled across it.
“If you change how you think about it, its impact on what you feel and do changes,” Mr. Mischel writes.
He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.
To do this, use specific if-then plans, like “If it’s before noon, I won’t check email” or “If I feel angry, I will count backward from 10.” Done repeatedly, this buys a few seconds to at least consider your options. The point isn’t to be robotic and never eat chocolate mousse again. It’s to summon self-control when you want it, and be able to carry out long-term plans.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells



    Surgeons implanted retinal tissue created after reverting the patient's own cells to 'pluripotent' state.

    A Japanese woman in her 70s is the world's first recipient of cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, a technology that has created great expectations since it could offer the same advantages as embryo-derived cells but without some of the controversial aspects and safety concerns.
    In a two-hour procedure starting at 14:20 local time today, a team of three eye specialists lead by Yasuo Kurimoto of the Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, transplanted a 1.3 by 3.0 millimetre sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells into an eye of the Hyogo prefecture resident, who suffers from age-related macular degeneration.

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