Post List

  • May 24, 2015
  • 06:19 PM

When medication side effects get in the way of living life

by Bronwyn Thompson in Healthskills: Skills for Healthy Living

There are very few people living with chronic pain who gleefully swallow a handful of pills and skip happily off for the day feeling chipper and bright as a button. For the most part, people living with chronic pain don’t seem to enjoy the need to take medications – I’ve heard some say they’re worried about “not being able to tell whether I’m doing damage” when they can’t feel their pain, others say they don’t think medications are very helpful, while still others complain about rattling when they walk. But by far the biggest complaint is the medications for chronic pain have unpleasant side effects – side effects so bad that for some people, it’s just not worth taking the pills at all.... Read more »

  • May 24, 2015
  • 04:12 PM

This is your brain, on video games

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A new study shows that while video game players (VGPs) exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain’s reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain’s spatial memory system (the hippocampus). Past research has shown that people who use caudate nucleus-dependent navigation strategies have decreased grey matter and lower functional brain activity in the hippocampus.... Read more »

West, G., Drisdelle, B., Konishi, K., Jackson, J., Jolicoeur, P., & Bohbot, V. (2015) Habitual action video game playing is associated with caudate nucleus-dependent navigational strategies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1808), 20142952-20142952. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2952  

  • May 24, 2015
  • 06:44 AM

fMRI of the Amygdala: All In Vein?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Neuroscientists might need to rethink much of what's known about the amygdala, a small brain region that's been the focus of a lot of research. That's according to a new paper just published in Scientific Reports: fMRI measurements of amygdala activation are confounded by stimulus correlated signal fluctuation in nearby veins draining distant brain regions.

The amygdala is believed to be involved in emotion, especially negative emotions such as fear. Much of the evidence for this comes fr... Read more »

  • May 23, 2015
  • 10:04 PM

Combining drugs with different penetration profiles can accelerate development of multidrug resistance

by Betty Zou in Eat, Read, Science

One strategy to prevent multidrug resistance from developing is combination therapy, when two or more drugs with unique modes of action are taken together to treat an infection. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of mathematicians and biologists led by Dr. Pleuni Pennings at San Francisco State University examined how differences in drug penetrance can impact the effectiveness of combination therapy and subsequent emergence of multidrug resistance.... Read more »

Moreno-Gamez, S., Hill, A., Rosenbloom, D., Petrov, D., Nowak, M., & Pennings, P. (2015) Imperfect drug penetration leads to spatial monotherapy and rapid evolution of multidrug resistance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201424184. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1424184112  

  • May 23, 2015
  • 03:59 PM

Omega-3 as an intervention for childhood behavioral problems

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We don’t usually think of a child’s behavior as a diet issue, but if new findings hold true, then that might be the very case. In a new study, researchers suggest that omega-3, a fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, may have long-term neurodevelopmental effects that ultimately reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior problems in children.... Read more »

  • May 23, 2015
  • 03:53 AM

Psychological morbidity of coeliac disease

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Anxiety, depression and fatigue are common complaints in patients with untreated celiac disease and contribute to lower quality of life."That was one of the conclusions reached in the paper by Fabiana Zingone and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) following their review of the research literature "on psychological morbidity of celiac disease." Celiac (coeliac) disease (CD), by the way, is the autoimmune condition classically treated via the use of a gluten-free diet (GFD). Readers might wish to peruse my training post on the condition for some further background information about some of the known 'hows and whys' (see here) as well as other posts on what we don't know about CD (see here) (hint: quite a bit).The Zingone paper is open-access so it doesn't require any grand discussions from me at this point. "Our search of the available literature suggests that CD has a considerable psychological impact" is another way the authors discuss their findings and I for one, would not argue with such sentiments on potential extraintestinal manifestations of the condition. Importantly, they make a distinction between whether such 'psychological impact' may directly derive from having the disease itself or other reasons potentially relating "to the patient’s subjective perception of the disorder and of the GFD used to treat it."I was also taken by some of the 'clinical implications' listed by the authors when it comes to the 'considerable psychological impact' including that: (1) "GFD improves quality of life (QoL) in symptomatic patients, but not always in asymptomatic patients", (2) "Anxiety and depression may affect dietary adherence and QoL" and (3) "Fatigue is sometimes the unique symptom at CD presentation."Point (1) taps into the idea of a better cost-benefit profile from the use of a GFD when people actually see such a diet improving their health and wellbeing. As per other rumblings on this blog, I might also suggest that this effect extends into some of the asymptomatic group too (see here). Point (2) raises an important issue that potential psychological effects associated with CD might have important implications for things like sticking to the diet. I wonder if that also includes those slightly outside of the classical presentation of CD too? Point (3) on fatigue as a possible 'unique' symptom of CD takes me back to a distant post titled 'gluten relations' and the idea that screening for CD or even the broader non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) might be indicated in a few 'fatigue-linked' conditions including cases of chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS / ME) (sorry, SEID). By saying that I'm not making any value judgements about SEID simply being CD or vice-versa, merely that within the spectrum of fatigue-manifesting conditions, one might find one or two surprising results [2] as you might in other conditions too [3].Yet after all that, mass screening for CD is still not indicated? [4]Music: Muse - Plug In Baby.----------[1] Zingone F. et al. Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature. United European Gastroenterol J. 2015 Apr;3(2):136-45.[2] Isasi C. et al. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome caused by non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Reumatol Clin. 2015 Jan-Feb;11(1):56-7.[3] Gadoth A. et al. Transglutaminase 6 Antibodies in the Serum of Patients With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. JAMA Neurol. 2015. April 13.[4] Ludvigsson JF. et al. Screening for celiac disease in the general population and in high-risk groups. United European Gastroenterol J. 2015 Apr;3(2):106-20.----------Zingone F, Swift GL, Card TR, Sanders DS, Ludvigsson JF, & Bai JC (2015). Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature. United European gastroenterology journal, 3 (2), 136-45 PMID: 25922673... Read more »

Zingone F, Swift GL, Card TR, Sanders DS, Ludvigsson JF, & Bai JC. (2015) Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature. United European gastroenterology journal, 3(2), 136-45. PMID: 25922673  

  • May 22, 2015
  • 03:11 PM

Air pollution is causing your baby problems, but breastfeeding can help

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Aitana Lertxundi has conducted her research work within the framework of the INma (Childhood and Environment) programme led by Jesús Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. The study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during the first years of life caused by exposure to the PM2.5 and NO2 atmospheric pollutants.... Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 03:02 PM

Are infections making you stupid?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

New research shows that infections can impair your cognitive ability measured on an IQ scale. The study is the largest of its kind to date, and it shows a clear correlation between infection levels and impaired cognition. Anyone can suffer from an infection, for example in their stomach, urinary tract or skin. However, a new Danish study shows that a patient’s distress does not necessarily end once the infection has been treated.... Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 07:02 AM

The Dirty Dozen Scale 

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

This is not a scale to help you determine if your fruits and vegetables are dirty. This is for a different kind of dirt commonly referred to as the dark triad. Psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism make up the dark triad of personality traits and they are traits we all want to identify at different points […]

Related posts:
The CAST Scale: A comprehensive assessment of sadistic tendencies
The Libertarian Orientation Scale: Who’s the (real) Libertarian?
I’ll show you who’s boss: The Spitefulness Scale

... Read more »

Jonason PK, & Webster GD. (2010) The dirty dozen: a concise measure of the dark triad. Psychological Assessment, 22(2), 420-32. PMID: 20528068  

  • May 22, 2015
  • 05:04 AM

Evaluation of a spatial ecosystem model: predictions and data

by sceintists from the Marine group at CEES in Marine Science blog

Spatial Ecosystem models can be useful but need to be validated with data. Our study validates for the first time the spatial version of the commonly used Ecopath with Ecosim ecosystem modelling suite. We find that spatial distribution of fish species is well predicted by the model, but fishing effort distribution is not.

... Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 04:07 AM

Clinical trials for rare diseases – finding and keeping patients

by Danielle Stevenson in BHD Research Blog

International Clinical Trial day (May 20th) celebrates the medical advances as a result of clinical trials. Clinical trials are essential to ensure drug safety and efficacy, and the recent increase in the development of orphan drugs has led to an increase in rare disease clinical trials. The nature of rare diseases creates specific challenges for clinical trial design and patient recruitment.... Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 02:24 AM

Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) and autism: 2 year outcomes

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"These results provide evidence that gains from early intensive intervention are maintained 2 years later. Notably, core autism symptoms improved in the ESDM [Early Start Denver Model] group over the follow-up period relative to the COM [community-intervention-as-usual] group."Those were some of the conclusions reported in amongst the potentially very important results from Annette Estes and colleagues [1] looking at "the sustained effects of early intervention" following previous studies [2] specifically looking at the ESDM for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ESDM by the way, is a behavioural intervention model that draws on elements of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and is based on 'a relationship-focused developmental model'.Authors reported that when examining follow-up data for some 39 children aged 6 previously included in a trial of ESDM, those that received intervention (compared to those in receipt of 'treatment as usual') "demonstrated improved core autism symptoms and adaptive behavior." These findings were present despite no significant group differences in intellectual functioning between ESDM and COM participants. Perhaps also important were the discussions that: "The two groups received equivalent intervention hours during the original study, but the ESDM group received fewer hours during the follow-up period."As I've hinted before on this blog, parent-led interventions when it comes to autism have historically been met with varying degrees of success when experimentally tested (see here). By saying this, I'm not trying to poo-poo such efforts; merely that discussions about how early intervention for autism is the gold standard are all well and good, but exactly what form that early intervention takes has yet to be authoritatively decided bearing in mind the pluralisation of the label (see here). In more recent times, we have seen some slightly more optimistic results appearing with specific interventions in mind, as per previous preliminary results based on very, very early implementation of something like ESDM (see here) and the use of ABA possibly linked to those 'optimal outcomers' (see here). But there is still a lot more to do in this area of research before any big promises are made.Insofar as the idea that intensive efforts in the early years might pay more cost-effective dividends as time goes on, I'm sure that a few eyes and ears will have been grabbed [3] by such a sentiment in these times of continued austerity and resources being squeezed. As I suggested in a previous post (see here) on the idea that parent training might be superior over parent education [4] when it comes to facets of autism, such squeezes to finances/resources might not necessarily translate great experimental results into great real-world outcomes without some blue-sky thinking about how such programmes can be delivered mindful of costs. Estes et al seem to suggest that 'early and intensive' might be eventually able to give way to 'less and sustained'.One last thing: I'm minded to take readers back to the post I wrote concerning the paper by Barnevik Olsson and colleagues [5] and the idea that 'tackling' core autism symptoms is a noble cause but that one has to be mindful of all of the other comorbidity that can follow a diagnosis and can seriously impact on behaviour and development. What perhaps I would like to see a lot more of in lots of areas of intervention with autism in mind, is how said program/tool/schedule also impacts on comorbid features and whether those variables should be the more important factors related to outcome. Sort of like what has been talked about the dietary intervention and autism in mind...Music: Paul McCartney & Wings - Live And Let Die.----------[1] Estes A. et al. Long-Term Outcomes of Early Intervention in 6-Year-Old Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015. April 28.[2] Dawson G. et al. Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: the Early Start Denver Model. Pediatrics. 2010 Jan;125(1):e17-23.[3] Penner M. et al. Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Comparing Pre-diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)-Targeted Intervention with Ontario's Autism Intervention Program. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 May 5.[4] Bearss K. et al. Effect of parent training vs parent education on behavioral problems in children with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 Apr 21;313(15):1524-33.[5] Barnevik Olsson M. et al. “Recovery” from the diagnosis of autism – and then?  Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2015. 11: 999-1005.----------Annette Estes, Jeffrey Munson, Sally J. Rogers, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, & Geraldine Dawson (2015). Long-Term Outcomes of Early Intervention in 6-Year-Old Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry : 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.04.005... Read more »

Annette Estes, Jeffrey Munson, Sally J. Rogers, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, & Geraldine Dawson. (2015) Long-Term Outcomes of Early Intervention in 6-Year-Old Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. info:/10.1016/j.jaac.2015.04.005

  • May 21, 2015
  • 05:43 PM

E-cigarettes don’t help smokers stop smoking (or smoke less)

by Megan Cartwright in Science-Based Writing

Electronic cigarettes don’t help people quit smoking or even smoke less. This conclusion – which further squashes hopes that e-cigarettes might enable America’s 42 million smokers to quit – comes from one of the largest studies of e-cigarette users to … Continue reading →... Read more »

Al-Delaimy WK, Myers MG, Leas EC, Strong DR, & Hofstetter CR. (2015) E-cigarette use in the past and quitting behavior in the future: a population-based study. American journal of public health, 105(6), 1213-9. PMID: 25880947  

  • May 21, 2015
  • 04:05 PM

You can make people less religious by flicking their brain with magnetic pulses

by Tom Rees in Epiphenom

Many years ago, a guy called Michael Persinger achieved a certain amount of fame with a claim that stimulating the right part of the brain with a magnetic field could give people a religious experience. Although others weren’t able to get the same results, studies since then have found that brain damage to parts of [Read More...]... Read more »

  • May 21, 2015
  • 10:22 AM

Social Contagion: When Fish Go with the Flow

by Bernadeta Dadonaite in The Question Gene

How contagious behaviour spreads in schooling fish... Read more »

Rosenthal SB, Twomey CR, Hartnett AT, Wu HS, & Couzin ID. (2015) Revealing the hidden networks of interaction in mobile animal groups allows prediction of complex behavioral contagion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(15), 4690-5. PMID: 25825752  

  • May 21, 2015
  • 05:09 AM

Respiratory illness and schizophrenia

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Schizophrenia is associated with impaired lung function and increased risk for pneumonia, COPD [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and chronic bronchitis."That was the primary conclusion reached in the paper by Krista Partti and colleagues [1] who aimed to "compare the respiratory health of people with psychosis with that of the general population." Their findings, based on data from "a nationally representative sample of 8028 adult Finns" (Finns as in inhabitants of Finland) involved collected data on the frequency of respiratory disease/symptoms as well as measuring lung function via the technique known as spirometry. Tobacco smoking or exposure to smoking, one of the primary causes of respiratory illness in the general population, was "quantified with serum cotinine levels.""Participants with schizophrenia and other non-affective psychoses had significantly lower lung function values compared with the general population, and the association remained significant for schizophrenia after adjustment for smoking and other potential confounders." Indeed, as per the opening sentence to this post, authors reported some pretty elevated odds ratios (ORs) for various respiratory illnesses related to a diagnosis of schizophrenia compared with asymptomatic controls.This is not the first time that respiratory diseases have been reported as potentially being more frequently diagnosed in cases of schizophrenia. Schoepf and colleagues [2] reported that in their cohort of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, various physical comorbidity were detected including COPD. As a predictor of "general hospital mortality" both COPD and bronchitis were included in the list of diseases. Other studies have arrived at similar conclusions [3] including data derived from the 'big data' producer that is Taiwan as per the findings from Hsu and colleagues [4].As per the NHS Choices entry on COPD: "The main cause of COPD is smoking." Tobacco smoking is reported to be more frequently present in cases of schizophrenia [5] albeit with the need for some caution when it comes to making sweeping statements about the overlap [6]. It's therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that smoking habits may very well have a primary role in the association reported by Partti et al particularly in light of their findings on cotinine levels.That being said, and acknowledging that smoking cessation programmes may be lifesavers for people with schizophrenia as they are for the rest of the population, I'm interested in whether there may be other factors at work when it comes to lung function and schizophrenia. Airway physiology, for example, might be something to consider, particularly in light of other findings when it comes to autism covered previously on this blog (see here). I'm not trying to downplay lifestyle factors [7], just sayin' that we need to cover all the potential bases including looking at whether familial transmission might also be a factor to consider [8].Music: Song 2 by Blur.----------[1] Partti K. et al. Lung function and respiratory diseases in people with psychosis: population-based study. Br J Psychiatry. 2015 Apr 9.[2] Schoepf D. et al. Physical comorbidity and its relevance on mortality in schizophrenia: a naturalistic 12-year follow-up in general hospital admissions. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 Feb;264(1):3-28.[3] Hendrie HC. et al. Health outcomes and cost of care among older adults with schizophrenia: a 10-year study using medical records across the continuum of care. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 May;22(5):427-36.[4] Hsu JH. et al. Increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in patients with schizophrenia: a population-based study. Psychosomatics. 2013 Jul-Aug;54(4):345-51.[5] Kelly C. & McCreadie R. Cigarette smoking and schizophrenia. BJPsych Advances. 2000; 6.[6] Chapman S. et al. Citation bias in reported smoking prevalence in people with schizophrenia. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;43(3):277-82.[7] Filik R. et al. The cardiovascular and respiratory health of people with schizophrenia. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006 Apr;113(4):298-305.[8] Zöller  B. et al. Familial transmission of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adoptees: a Swedish nationwide family study. BMJ Open 2015;5:e007310 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007310----------Partti K, Vasankari T, Kanervisto M, Perälä J, Saarni SI, Jousilahti P, Lönnqvist J, & Suvisaari J (2015). Lung function and respiratory diseases in people with psychosis: population-based study. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science PMID: 25858177... Read more »

Partti K, Vasankari T, Kanervisto M, Perälä J, Saarni SI, Jousilahti P, Lönnqvist J, & Suvisaari J. (2015) Lung function and respiratory diseases in people with psychosis: population-based study. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science. PMID: 25858177  

  • May 20, 2015
  • 06:04 PM

Tiny grains of lithium dramatically improve performance of fusion plasma

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While fusion might still be a far off dream, a new discovery may help bring that dream closer to reality. Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that helps them to improve fusion plasmas, a finding that could quicken the development of large scale fusion energy. The scientists found that when they injected tiny grains of lithium into a plasma undergoing a particular kind of turbulence then, under the right conditions, the temperature and pressure rose dramatically.... Read more »

Kaye, S., Abrams, T., Ahn, J., Allain, J., Andre, R., Andruczyk, D., Barchfeld, R., Battaglia, D., Bhattacharjee, A., Bedoya, F.... (2015) An overview of recent physics results from NSTX. Nuclear Fusion, 55(10), 104002. DOI: 10.1088/0029-5515/55/10/104002  

  • May 20, 2015
  • 01:48 PM

Can we save the Golden-winged Warbler by burning the place down?

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

The endangered Golden-winged Warbler can be conserved by fire management.... Read more »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 12:35 PM

Syzygites megalocarpus has good taste in mushrooms

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Syzygites megalocarpus is a mycoparasite, a fungus that feeds on other fungi. It's not alone in this ability...... Read more »

  • May 20, 2015
  • 10:50 AM

battling superbugs the evolutionary way

by Greg Fish in weird things

We’re using far too many antibiotics. That has been the cry from the FDA and the WHO for the last several years as more and more antibiotic-resistant strains have been found after they had colonized or killed patients. Of course these bacteria aren’t completely immune to our arsenals of drugs, they’re just harder to kill with certain antibiotics or require different ones, but a rather small, yet unsettling number, have required doctors to use every last antibacterial weapon [...] ...... Read more »

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