Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sense of Where You Are

The workings of the grid cells show that in the brain “you are constantly creating a map of the outside world,” said Cori Bargmann, of Rockefeller University, who is one of the two leaders of a committee set up to plan the National Institutes of Health’s contribution to President Obama’s recently announced neuroscience initiative.
Often, the workings of billions of neurons that produce our thoughts are opaque. But electrical recordings of signals emitted by grid cells show a map “with a framework and coordinates that are completely intuitive,” Dr. Bargmann said. And to find such a straightforward system is, in its own way, “just mind-boggling.” What is the brain doing being so mysteriously unmysterious?
The implications of the discovery are both practical and profound. The cells have been proved to exist in primates, and scientists think they will be found in all mammals, including humans. The area in the brain that contains the grid cell navigation system is often damaged early in Alzheimer’s disease, and one of the frequent early symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients is that they get lost. The Mosers do not work on humans, but any clues to understanding how memory and cognitive ability are lost are important.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hammurabi’s Code and U.S. Health Care

Interesting that the economist, Uwe Reinhardt, opted for citation of eye surgery in this article!
There are also some good letters to the editor at the end of the article... (hit the link button below)

Sometime around 1780-70 B.C., the Babylonian King Hammurabi promulgated the now famous Code of Hammurabi, covering both civil and criminal law.
Perspectives from expert contributors.
The code is said to have informed both Jewish and Islamic law. Remarkably, it has echoes also in modern health policy in the United States.
Among the 282 laws in Hammurabi’s Code, nine (215 to 223) pertain to medical practice:
215. If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife and cure it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an operating knife, and saves the eye, he shall receive 10 shekels in money.
                216. If the patient be a freed man, he receives five shekels.

Not all of these laws have survived the millennia. Relative to Hammurabi’s draconian medical malpractice code, for example, modern medical malpractice penalties represent mere slaps on the wrist.
On the other hand, our modern, differentiated payment system for health care does resemble the Code of Hammurabi in some respects.
To illustrate, for a primary care office visit with a new patient of 30-minute duration (using Current Procedural Terminology, or C.T.P. codes, in this case Code 99203), New Jersey’s Medicaid in 2012 paid a nonspecialist $25 and a board-certified specialist $32.30. The comparable fees paid physicians for commercially insured patients are jealously guarded trade secrets, but it is reasonable to assume them to be $100 to $200. Other fees in the C.P.T. code are similarly low for Medicaid.
Physicians clearly understand this relative valuation being signaled to them. According to a recent estimate, almost a third of American physicians are unwilling to accept any new patients covered by Medicaid. In New Jersey in 2011, only 40 percent of physicians accepted new Medicaid patients (seeExhibit 4). Given the insulting valuations many state Medicaid programs put upon the physicians’ work, that’s understandable.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Doctors Denounce Cancer Drug Prices of $100,000 a Year

These same cost issues described in the article below apply to drugs used in treating retinal disease, in which companies charge 2000-3000$ per injection. Some patients need these monthly...and in each eye...for the rest of their life...

With the cost of some lifesaving cancer drugs exceeding $100,000 a year, more than 100 influential cancer specialists from around the world have taken the unusual step of banding together in hopes of persuading some leading pharmaceutical companies to bring prices down.
Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years — and recently led to a public protest from doctors at a major cancer center in New York. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to join the effort is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices. In this case, some of the specialists even include researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. 

Eggs, Too, May Provoke Bacteria to Raise Heart Risk

For the second time in a matter of weeks, a group of researchers reported a link between the food people eat and bacteria in the intestines that can increase the risk of heart attacks.
The lecithin study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, is part of a growing appreciation of the role the body’s bacteria play in health and disease. With heart disease, investigators have long focused on the role of diet and heart disease, but expanding the scrutiny to bacteria adds a new dimension.
Heart disease perhaps involves microbes in our gut,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Stanley Hazen, chairman of the department of cellular and molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. 
To show the effect of eggs on TMAO, Dr. Hazen asked volunteers to eat two hard-boiled eggs. They ended up with more TMAO in their blood. But if they first took an antibiotic to wipe out intestinal bacteria, eggs did not have that effect.
To see the effects of TMAO on cardiovascular risk, the investigators studied 4,000 people who had been seen at the Cleveland Clinic. The more TMAO in their blood, the more likely they were to have a heart attack or stroke in the ensuing three years. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Why listening to music is as good as sex: Scientists say listening to tunes stimulates the senses giving pleasure

Why listening to music is as good as sex: Scientists say listening to tunes stimulates the senses giving pleasure

  • The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were
  • Researchers even say they can predict whether we will buy a song based on the reaction of our brain

  • Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2308020/How-listening-new-music-really-CAN-make-happy-Scientists-say-hearing-new-tunes-rewarding.html#ixzz2R7XONLYr

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    'ReadingMate’ reduces treadmill eye bobble

    PURDUE (US) — New technology makes it easier for aspiring multi-taskers to read while they run on thetreadmill.

    The Wikipedia of Biomarkers: Interview with Jean-Emmanuel Bibault and Charles Ferté, Co-Founders of CancerDriver

    Every year nearly 13 million people in the world are diagnosed with cancer. 7.6 million die from it, making it the leading cause of death in developed countries and the second leading cause of death in the developing world.
    While cures for cancer are hard to come by, there are promising avenues for diagnosis. Cancer biomarkers are one of them; they are molecular aberrations found in the tumors that predict the aggressiveness of a disease or the response to a treatment. Unfortunately, too few patients are tested for biomarkers and too many with identified biomarkers are not referred to the right drug or the right trial.
    Enter CancerDriver, a free repository of cancer biomarkers intended to improve access to biomarker information for patients, physicians, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies. CancerDriver contains a database of all known biomarkers in oncology. It can be found on the web and soon on iOS and Android mobile platforms.
    We had a chance to speak with Jean-Emmanuel Bibault and Charles Ferté, Co-Founders of CancerDriver, to discuss this revolutionary site.

    Tuesday, April 09, 2013

    Doctors driven to bankruptcy

    As many doctors struggle to keep their practices financially sound,some are buckling under money woes and being pushed into bankruptcy.

    Monday, April 08, 2013

    The Surprising Truth About 8 Common Diet Strategies

    Who has the time to keep up with weight-loss research? It's so technical...and confusing...and often contradictory! And yet if you don't know what's going on in the world of calorie counting, you may not be seeing the pounds drop off as fast as you think they should. In one European diet-and-exercise study, for example, participants who were given detailed explanations of the research itself were more likely to improve (exercise more or eat better or both) than a less clued-in group. Fortunately, we have dug into the latest research. And as we did, we noted that a surprising number of dieting tactics accepted as gospel have recently been shown to be dead wrong. Knowing which still hold up and which are big (fat) lies can mean the difference between winning and losing at weight loss.

    Sunday, April 07, 2013

    Culprit in Heart Disease Goes Beyond Meat’s Fat

    The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat andcholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the intestines after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.
    That, at least, was the theory. So the question that morning was: Would a burst of TMAO show up in people’s blood after they ate steak? And would the same thing happen to a vegan who had not eaten meat for at least a year and who consumed the same meal?
    The answers were: yes, there was a TMAO burst in the five meat eaters; and no, the vegan did not have it. And TMAO levels turned out to predict heart attack risk in humans, the researchers found

    Patient people mull over future rewards

    Brain imaging suggests impulsive people don’t think about the reward they’ll get for waiting, whereas patient people seem to enjoy it.

    Friday, April 05, 2013

    A Beautiful Multimedia Newspaper Exposes Life In The World’s Largest Refugee Camp

    The Dadaab Stories site gives you a window into daily life in the African camp, home to 500,000 Somali refugees. But it’s not Western filmmakers making sob stories: The site is reported by the refugees themselves.

    The 4 Ideas That Melinda Gates Thinks Are Changing The World

    For the past three years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has hosted TEDxChange, a TEDx event with the goal of spurring action around the ideas supported by the foundation. This year, host Melinda Gates introduced seven speakers-- a theologian talking about faith and family planning, and children featured in the film The Revolutionary Optimists--who all discussed topics related to the event’s theme of "positive disruption." We talked to her after the event to learn more about some of the things happening around the world that Gates considers to be most disruptive--in a good way.

    In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

    Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.
    The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of theQuelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago.

    Thursday, April 04, 2013

    Our Inconsistent Ethical Instincts

    MORAL quandaries often pit concerns about principles against concerns about practical consequences. Should we ban assault rifles and large sodas, restricting people’s liberties for the sake of physical health and safety? Should we allow drone killings or torture, if violating one person’s rights could save a thousand lives?
    We like to believe that the principled side of the equation is rooted in deep, reasoned conviction. But a growing wealth of research shows that those values often prove to be finicky, inconsistent intuitions, swayed by ethically irrelevant factors. What you say now you might disagree with in five minutes. And such wavering has implications for both public policy and our personal lives.
    Philosophers and psychologists often distinguish between two ethical frameworks. A utilitarian perspective evaluates an action purely by its consequences. If it does good, it’s good.
    A deontological approach, meanwhile, also takes into account aspects of the action itself, like whether it adheres to certain rules. Do not kill, even if killing does good.
    No one adheres strictly to either philosophy, and it turns out we can be nudged one way or the other for illogical reasons.

    Tuesday, April 02, 2013

    Optimal Music for the Gym

    Researchers Say The Right Tempo Boosts Stamina, Energy Efficiency

    Research has found that at the right tempo, music can reduce the sense of exertion as well as boost motivation. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of research at the School of Sport and Education at London's Brunel University, says the "sweet spot" for workout music is between 125 and 140 beats per minute when people aren't trying to time their movements to the music. Previously, experts believed that the faster a person exercises, the faster the music tempo should be.
    Other new studies have shown that when athletes synchronize their movements to a musical beat, their bodies can handle more exertion: Treadmill walkers had greater stamina and cyclists required less oxygen uptake. And swimmers who listened to music during races finished faster than others who didn't.
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