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News on Health & Science

Sleep well to remember well

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Grey regions of the brain    talk to each other during deep sleep to produce great memory. T.V. Jayan on some recent findings:……....CLICK & SEE

Staying up all night studying does more harm than good  it leads to fuzzy memories the next day. In other words, our mental scrapbook’s ability to register fresh memories is seriously compromised if a good night’s sleep is denied, scientists say.

Neuroscientists have known for a while that sleep deprivation does hamper the consolidation of long-term memory    the exact mechanism of which  was unraveled recently by an India-born scientist and his colleagues in the US and Germany. But now a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston, has shown that lack of sleep not only fetters memory retention but also its very formation.

Matthew Walker and co-workers at the Harvard centre reported on February 11 in the online version of Nature Neuroscience that sleep before learning is crucial to preparing the brain for the next day’s memory formation. The findings, they say, are  worrying   considering society’s increasing erosion of sleep time.

The Harvard scientists scanned the brain’s hippocampus region   where everyday events are minted into fresh memories    using sophisticated functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)‘ technique. The study involved 28 volunteers in the age group of 18-30 years. The individuals were divided into two groups, with one made to stay awake for nearly 35 hours (two days and one night), and the other permitted to have a normal night’s sleep. The group that kept up was allowed to read books, take short walks, surf or chat on the Internet or play board games.

Towards the end of the second day, all participants were shown a slideshow of 150 pictures of landscapes, objects and non-celebrities. As they watched, their brains were mapped using fMRI. The scientists found that the mean recognition levels of the sleep-deprived group were about 20 per cent less than that of the other. The participants were then recalled after a full day’s break and asked to identify the slides they had earlier seen as a set of 75 fresh slides were added to the lot.  The volunteers who lacked sleep on the first day performed poorly, despite having had two nights to recover the lost sleep, the scientists said.

Your ability to learn is 20-40 per cent worse, that is, the difference between acing the exam and failing it miserably,  Walker told Know How.

While the work done by Walker and his associates conclusively proved that sleep before learning is vital, scientists had little clue about the brain mechanisms that help sleep to move and consolidate newly learnt things into long-term memory. All they knew was that for long-term storage, memories move from the hippocampus, one of the oldest regions of the brain, to the neocortex, the grey matter covering the hippocampus. This, they knew, occurred during deep, dreamless sleep.

All along, nearly for a generation, scientists thought that the hippocampus pushes the memory meant for long-term storage, or consolidation, to the neocortex. But Brown University scientist Mayank Mehta (who completed his doctoral studies from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and worked for a few years in quantum physics before moving to the US and neuroscience) and his colleagues recently proved this wrong. Their work, published in the November 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience, showed that it is not the hippocampus that uploads information to the neocortex in a burst of brain cell communication but the neocortex that drives the dialogue.

To strike up a conversation between the hippocampus and the neocortex, the neurons from both the brain regions should be in sync. In other words, if the neocortical neurons display any activity, there should be corresponding firing among the hippocampal neurons. The previous studies failed to exhibit any such synchronous firing   which neuroscientists call phase locking  in the two regions. While neocortical neurons showed rhythmic activity during deep sleep, excitatory neurons in the hippocampus showed erratic activity.

What set Mehta thinking was that if these two parts of the brain talk during deep sleep, why didn’t they appear to be speaking the same language?

There were many reasons why scientists were unable to establish this link. One reason is that they were looking at the excitatory neurons in the hippocampus. Second, they were looking at the activity using extracellular electrodes where they can only measure the spiking activity (the rush of neurons),   Mehta told.

Mehta and his colleagues demonstrated that neurons from the neocortex work in tandem not with excitatory hippocampal neurons but what they call interneurons    inhibitory brain cells in the hippocampus. The study conducted in rats hence showed that the timing of activity or talk was the same in both the brain regions, with a small delay in the hippocampus    as if the inhibitory neurons in the hippocampus were echoing the speech in the neocortex.

What really helped Mehta to crack the mystery was his association with Nobel prize-winning German scientist Bert Sakmann. Mehta’s team used a ground breaking single-cell recording technique developed at Sakman’s laboratory at the Max Plank Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg for recording electrical activity in rats   brains.   This technique has helped us in simultaneous measurement of electrical potential in single neurons from the hippocampus and the neocortex, Sakmann, who was in Delhi earlier this month for an Indo-EU science conference, told KnowHow.   This is by far the best technique available to accurately record electric activity of individual neurons,   Sakmann claims.

“The technique of looking inside a neuron and identifying the neural type was very important for the study. If you don’t differentiate which neuron you are recording from, it all seems like a mess,  says Mehta.

Sumantra Chattarji at the Bangalore-based National Centre for Biological Sciences admits that scientists knew the hippocampus records episodic memory whereas the neocortex plays a critical role in long-term memory storage. But they haven’t been able to get the correlation correct.   The new technique made all the difference,  says Chattarji.

This method of experimentally seeing how the two brain regions “talk” to each other may help them study other aspects of brain function such as perception and emotion, hopes Mehta.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

Categories
News on Health & Science

Researchers find key to treating insomnia

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: Researchers studying a disease that causes people to suddenly drop off to sleep are trying to turn what they have learnt into a new way to help insomniacs get some shut-eye…...click & see

They found that blocking brain receptors for orexin, a blood peptide, promoted sleep in rats, dogs and people, according to a paper in Sunday’s online issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

Orexin, also known as hypocretin, is important in maintaining wakefulness. It is absent in the brains of people who suffer from narcolepsy, a chronic disorder in which people cannot regulate sleep-wake cycles normally.

It is estimated to affect more than 135,000 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The research team, led by Francois Jenck of the Swiss drug company Actelion Pharmaceuticals, reasoned that they might be able to induce sleep if they could block orexin.

They developed a drug that can block the receptors in the brain that respond to orexin-hypocretin. The researchers reported successful testing in rodents, dogs and men.

The first tests were proof of the concept and the drug is now being evaluated to establish the correct dosage, said Roland Haefeli, an Actelion spokesman.

Researchers hope to decide this year whether to conduct a phase-three study, a detailed assessment of the drug that would be the final step before seeking US government approval for its use. Such studies can take a few years.

Narcolepsy victims often also experience cataplexy, a condition in which they lose control of muscle tone for a few seconds to minutes. Jenck said in a telephone interview that the drug tests did not prompt indications of cataplexy.

Thomas Scammell, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard University, said the work was “promising, with a certain amount of caution”.

“I think it may be the beginning of something quite exciting,” said Scammell, who was not part of the research team.

Source:The Times Of India

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News on Health & Science

Nutrition: Fish Oil for Mom May Benefit Her Child

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Women who take fish oil supplements while pregnant may improve the hand-eye coordination of their children, according to a small Australian study.

In a trial published online Dec. 21 in The Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition, scientists divided 98 women into two groups. Beginning at 20 weeks of pregnancy and continuing until the women gave birth, the first group took a daily dose of four grams of fish oil, while the second group took four grams of olive oil each day. Neither the mothers nor the researchers knew which supplement the women had received until the study ended.

The researchers examined 72 children born to women who completed the study when the children were 2½ years old. In tests of locomotor ability, speech and hearing, vocabulary and practical reasoning, the children whose mothers were given fish oil during pregnancy scored slightly higher, but the differences were not statistically significant. However, after controlling for maternal age, birth weight, breast-feeding and other factors, the children of the women who took fish oil were significantly better at hand-eye coordination than those of the women who took the olive oil supplement.

The authors acknowledged that their sample was small, and that they could not exclude the possibility that the result was due to chance. Still, children who received prenatal fish oil did consistently perform better on all measures of development.

“These preliminary data indicate that supplementation with a relatively high-dose fish oil during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy is not only safe,” the authors concluded, “but also seems to have potential beneficial effects that need to be explored further.”

Source:The New York Times

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Ailmemts & Remedies

Coughs

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Definition:    A cough is our body’s way of responding to irritants in our throat and airways. An irritant stimulates nerves there to send a cough impulse to the brain. The brain signals the muscles of our abdomen and chest wall to give a strong push of air to our lungs to try to expel the irritant.

It is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. The cough reflex consists of three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound. Coughing is either voluntary or involuntary.

A coughing attack can be very forceful — the velocity of air from a vigorous cough through the nearly closed vocal cords can approach 500 miles per hour. Prolonged, vigorous coughing is exhausting and can cause sleeplessness, headaches, urinary incontinence, and even broken ribs.
Frequent coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease. Many viruses and bacteria benefit evolutionarily by causing the host to cough, which helps to spread the disease to new hosts. Most of the time, irregular coughing is caused by a respiratory tract infection but can also be triggered by choking, smoking, air pollution, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, post-nasal drip, chronic bronchitis, lung tumors, heart failure and medications such as ACE inhibitors.

An occasional cough is normal and healthy. A cough that persists for several weeks or one that brings up discolored or bloody mucus may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention. A cough rarely requires emergency care.

Cough is a helpful phenomenon, it is the body’s natural reflex to irritation in the throat. There are two kinds of cough, one which is wet and associated with mucus (productive cough); and the other which is dry and there is no mucus (unproductive cough). It is important to differentiate between the two, because the treatments are entirely different.....CLICK & SEE

Causes:  The list of possible causes of cough is long and highly varied. Doctors classify coughs into 2 categories, acute and chronic. Many doctors define an acute cough as one that been present for less than 3 weeks. Chronic coughs are those present for more than 3 weeks.

  • Acute coughs can be divided into infectious (caused by an infection) and noninfectious causes.
  • Noninfectious causes of cough include flare-ups of the following chronic conditions: chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and environmental allergies.
  • The easiest way to simplify the causes of chronic cough is to divide them into their locations with respect to the lungs. The categories are environmental irritants, conditions within the lungs, conditions along the passages that transmit air from the lungs to the environment, conditions within the chest cavity but outside of the lungs, and digestive causes.
  • Any environmental substance that irritates the air passages or the lungs is capable of producing a chronic cough with continued exposure. Cigarette smoke is the most common cause of chronic cough. Other cough-producing irritants include dusts, pollens, pet dander, particulate matter, industrial chemicals and pollution, cigar and pipe smoke, and low environmental humidity.
  • Within the lungs both common and uncommon conditions cause chronic cough. Common causes include asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Less common causes of lung-induced chronic cough include cancer, sarcoidosis, diseases of the lung tissue, and congestive heart failure with chronic fluid build-up in the lungs.
  • The passages that connect the lungs to the external environment are known as the upper respiratory tract. Chronic sinus infections, chronic postnasal drip, diseases of the external ear, infections of the throat, and use of ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure have all been implicated in chronic cough.
  • In addition to disease processes within the lung and air passages, diseases elsewhere within the chest cavity may also be responsible for chronic cough. Conditions within the chest known to cause chronic cough include cancer, unusual growth of a lymph node, and an abnormal enlargement of the aorta, which is the main blood vessel leaving the heart.
  • An often-overlooked cause of the chronic cough is gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). GERD occurs when acid from the stomach travels up the esophagus. This abnormal condition can cause irritation of the esophagus and larynx resulting in the reflex production of a cough.

In the case of productive cough, coughing helps in removing excess mucus or phlegm which has come up in the back of the throat from the lungs or the nose and sinuses. A common cause of coughing in the night is mucus dripping from the nose into the back of the throat. Expectorant syrups , specially herbal base cough syrup can be used to get rid of the phlegm. Note that productive coughs should never be suppressed since they serve a very useful purpose. Night-time irritation of a chield can be eased by turning the child on his side or his front. A doctor should be consulted in case the cough lasts for more than 48 hours.

Unproductive coughs on the other hand serve no useful purpose, and can be very irritating to a small child, sometimes to the extent of preventing sleep. In this case, cough suppressants can help ease the discomfort.

Complications:   The complications of coughing can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute complications include cough syncope (fainting spells due to decreased blood flow to the brain when coughs are prolonged and forceful), insomnia, cough-induced vomiting, rupture of blebs causing spontaneous pneumothorax (although this still remains to be proven), subconjunctival hemorrhage or “red eye”, coughing defecation and in women with a prolapsed uterus, cough urination. Chronic complications are common and include abdominal or pelvic hernias, fatigue fractures of lower ribs and costochondritis.

Diagnosis:  The diagnose of the cause of a cough usually begins by determining if it is specific or nonspecific in nature. A specific cough is one associated with other symptoms and further workup is dependent on these symptoms while a non specific cough occurs without other signs and symptoms. Further workup may include labs, x rays, and spirometry.
Treatment:  Treatment should target the cause as per diagnosis; for example, smoking cessation or discontinuing ACE inhibitors. Cough suppressants such as codeine or dextromethorphan are frequently prescribed, but have been demonstrated to have little effect. Other treatment options may target airway inflammation or may promote mucus expectoration. As it is a natural protective reflex, suppressing the cough reflex might have damaging effects, especially if the cough is productive.

In children half of cases go away without treatment in 10 days and 90% in 25 days.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the use of cough medicine to relieve cough symptoms is supported by little evidence and thus not recommended for treating cough symptoms in children. There is tentative evidence that the use of honey is better than no treatment or diphenhydramine in decreasing coughing. It appeared similar to dextromethorphan. A trial of antibiotics or inhaled corticosteroids may be tried in children with a chronic cough in an attempt to treat protracted bacterial bronchitis or asthma respectively.
Home Care for prevention :
If one has asthma or another chronic lung disease, he or she should make sure to taking medicines prescribed by  the doctor.

Some helpful tips to ease cough:

*If one has a dry, tickling cough, try cough drops or hard candy. Never give these to a child under age 3, because they can cause choking.
*Use a vaporizer or take a steamy shower. These increase moisture in the air and help soothe a dry throat.
*Drink plenty of fluids. Liquids help thin the mucus in your throat making it easier to cough it up.
*Do not smoke and stay away from secondhand smoke

Medicines can be bought on own include:

*Guaifenesin helps break up mucus. Drink lots of fluids if you take this medicine.
*Decongestants help clear a runny nose and relieve postnasal drip. Check with your doctor before taking decongestants if you have high blood pressure.
* In case of children the doctor should be consulted before giving a child 6 years old or younger an over-the-counter cough medicine, even if it is labeled for children. These medicines likely do not work for children, and can have serious side effects.

If one has seasonal allergies, such as hay fever:
*Stay indoors during days or times of the day (usually the morning) when airborne allergens are high.
*Keep windows closed and use an air conditioner.
*Do not use fans that draw in air from outdoors.
*Shower and change clothes after being outside.
If one has allergies year-round, cover pillows and mattress with dust mite covers, use an air purifier, and avoid pets and other triggers.

IN GENERAL NATURAL AND HERBAL COUGH REMEDIES SHOULD BE ADOPTED TO GET RID OF SIDE EFFECTS OF MODERN COUGH SYRUPS WHICH WE NORMALY USE.

Sometimes Homeopathic medication works well.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cough
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003072.htm
http://www.emedicinehealth.com/coughs/page2_em.htm

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Environmental Pollution

Environmental Pollution

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Environmental pollution and growth of different Disesses

This is most talked about subject in today’s world. Many studies in people have demonstrated an association between environmental exposure and certain diseases or other health problems. Examples include radon and lung cancer; arsenic and cancer in several organs; lead and nervous system disorders; disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli O157: H7 (e.g., in contaminated meat and water) and gastrointestinal illness and death; and particulate matter and aggravation of heart and respiratory diseases.

To understand the relationship between health and the environment, scientists study a series of events that begins with the release of a pollutant into the environment and may end with the development of disease in a person or a population.

I do wander whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our westfulness-chemical waste in rivers,metal waste everywhere, and attomic wastes burried deep into the earth or sink into the sae.

Pollution is nothing but the action of enviromental contamination with man made waste. This includes mainly land,water and air.Pollution comes in various forms including the lesser known noise., light and thermal pollution.

Growth of world population, advancement of science and technology and our greed to become more powerful has already brought us to such a stage that from here we can never go back.So, all the time we are pulling our beautiful world with its flora and fauna to the devastrative grave. YES, WE ALL KNOW IT FOR SURE, THAT ALL THE BEAUTIFUL CREATIONS WILL BE LOST SOME DAY.

But we can still hope to extend its destraction time to few more generations ,if every human of the world gets conscious from today and starts doing something to save the environment as much as one can do.It may be as little as to switching off your room light or fan when you donot need it.If we are conscious today, our next generation will also be more conscious tomorrow and that way only we will extend the period of devestration and the world will be a better living place for few more years for our next generations.

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