Tag Archives: Functional magnetic resonance imaging

Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Fool Your Brain

While artificial sweeteners may be able to confuse your taste buds, the suspicion is growing that your brain is not so easily fooled.

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Several studies suggest your brain has a way of detecting calories while food is still in your mouth. For example, researchers made eight cyclists perform 60-minute workouts on a stationary bike while measuring their work rate.

During workouts on separate days they were told to rinse their mouth with a solution of either glucose or saccharin, without swallowing either one. The glucose mouth rinse improved the cyclists’ performance by a small but consistent amount compared to saccharin.

Later, they were asked to rinse their mouths with either saccharin alone or saccharin plus a caloric (but non-sweet) sugar called maltodextrin. The cyclists did slightly better when they rinsed their mouths with maltodextrin, even though both solutions carried identical saccharin taste.

When scientists performed fMRI scans on the athletes, they found that the combination of saccharin and maltodextrin activated two reward-associated brain areas — the striatum and anterior cingulate — which saccharin alone failed to touch.

Source: New Scientist December 27, 2009

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Varicose Veins

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

Image via Wikipedia

Definition:
Varicose veins are most often swollen, gnarled veins that most frequently occur in the legs, ankles and feet. They are produced by a condition known as venous insufficiency or venous reflux, in which blood circulating through the lower limbs does not properly return to the heart but instead pools up in the distended veins.
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More than 25 million Americans suffer from venous reflux disease. The symptoms can include pain and fatigue in the legs, swollen ankles and calves, burning or itching skin, skin discoloration and leg ulcers. In less severe cases, thin, discolored vessels – “spider veins” – may be the only symptom.

Gender and age are two primary risk factors in the development of venous reflux. An estimated 72% of American women and 42% of men will experience varicose veins symptoms by the time they reach their sixties. Women who have been pregnant more than once and people who are obese, have a family history of varicose veins or spend a great deal of time standing have an elevated risk for the condition, but it can occur in almost anyone at almost any age. Varicose veins never go away without treatment and frequently progress and worsen over time.

Severe varicose veins can have a significant impact on the lives of people who work on their feet – nurses, teachers, flight attendants et al. Research has shown that more than two million workdays are lost each year in the US, and annual expenditures for treatment total $1.4 billion.

Symptoms
Varicose veins are swollen vessels, blue or purple in color and generally bulging above the surface of the skin. They may appear twisted or “ropey” and can be accompanied by swelling in adjacent tissue. They can be found anywhere on the leg, from the ankle up to the groin, but most commonly appear on the inside of the thigh or on the back of the calf or knee.

Varicose veins are not always a serious or uncomfortable condition – for some people, small discolored vessels or minor swelling may be the only signs – but for millions of sufferers they can cause symptoms severe enough to significantly impact the quality of life. Throbbing pain, a deep ache or heavy feeling in the legs, muscle cramps, fatigue, “restless” legs, burning or itching skin, and severe swelling of the ankles can all be symptoms of venous reflux disease, the major underlying cause of varicose veins.

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If you have varicose veins, your legs may feel heavy, tired, restless, or achy. Standing or sitting for too long may worsen your symptoms. You may also experience night cramps.

You may notice small clusters of veins in a winding pattern on your leg, or soft, slightly tender knots of veins. Sometimes, the skin on your legs may change color, become irritated, or even form sores.

If you have severe varicose veins, you have slightly increased chances of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT may cause sudden, severe leg swelling. DVT is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention

When symptoms like these are present, they frequently curtail the patient’s activities and can even force them to miss work. Sufferers complain of being unable to walk, stand or sit for very long without feeling pain or exhaustion.

In severe cases, varicose veins can be indicators of serious circulatory problems, producing blood clots or skin ulcers that require immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis:
To determine whether venous reflux disease is causing your varicose vein symptoms, your primary care physician may conduct an examination and some tests. In some cases, you may be referred to a vein specialist at this time.  After you describe your symptoms, the doctor will examine your legs in a standing position, looking for swelling, visible veins and signs of skin changes, like discoloration, irritation or early signs of ulcers.

The next step is a “hands-on” examination – the doctor will feel your leg with his fingertips to detect swollen veins that are too deep under the skin to be visible. The groin area and the back of the calf are particular targets for inspection, and the doctor will also pay special attention to any areas of significant pain or tenderness, because that can indicate a possible blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

If the exam produces sufficient signs of venous reflux, your doctor will probably order an ultrasound examination, a non-invasive test that provides a clear and detailed image of the circulatory system in your leg. The most sophisticated ultrasound tests use  Doppler technology – the same technology used for weather radar – that illustrate the blood flow in various shades of red and blue to show the doctor the speed and direction of the blood flow through the vein.

If the ultrasound confirms the diagnosis of venous reflux, your physician will commonly prescribe conservative measures like compression stockings as a first step in your treatment. (If the ultrasound does not indicate venous reflux, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test may be ordered to pinpoint the source of the symptoms.) Patients exhibiting the signs or symptoms of varicose veins may request a referral to a specialist performing the VNUS Closure procedure.

Causes :

Heredity, obesity, age, trauma and standing for long periods of time have all been thought to damage venous valves and therefore cause venous insufficiency and varicose veins. Women, especially if previously pregnant, are more likely to develop varicose veins.

If you have never suffered from varicose veins, you are quite fortunate or you are in the minority as– nearly three-quarters of American women and more than 40% of men will encounter the condition by the time they reach retirement age, and venous reflux disease occurs even in teenagers.

Possible causes are:-
High blood pressure inside your superficial leg veins causes varicose veins.

Factors that can increase your risk for varicose veins include having a family history of varicose veins, being overweight, not exercising enough, smoking, standing or sitting for long periods of time, or having DVT. Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins. Varicose veins usually affect people between the ages of 30 and 70.

Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing varicose veins, but the veins often return to normal within 1 year after childbirth. Women who have multiple pregnancies may develop permanent varicose veins.

Risk Factors
By an almost 2-1 margin, women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. pregnancy and childbirth are major contributing factors – women who have been pregnant more than once are highly susceptible – partly because the hormonal changes that occur during pre-menstruation and menopause are known to relax vein walls and increase the chances of venous reflux. Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills can increase the risk as well.

Other significant contributing factors for varicose veins include obesity, a family history of varicose veins, and extended periods of standing – nurses, teachers, postal workers, flight attendants and other people with “vertical” careers or activities are vulnerable to developing varicose veins, as is anyone who does a lot of heavy lifting.
Finally, the longer you live, the more likely you are to develop varicose veins.  Half of all Americans over 50 have them, as do two-thirds of women over 60.

Prevention:
There are no medically proven ways to completely prevent varicose veins. Common sense, however, tells us that relieving pressure on the veins as well as promoting muscle strength helps to keep the blood flowing in the correct direction. Exercising, losing weight, elevating your legs when resting, and not crossing them when sitting all have potential benefits. Wearing loose clothing and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing also are thought to be helpful. Wearing high-heeled shoes is not advisable because they don’t allow the calf muscles to fully contract. Other than varicose vein treatment, medical compression hosiery is the most helpful method of decreasing the symptoms of varicose veins.

Advanced Vein Therapies uses the latest technology and offers several vein therapies & procedures to effectively treat varicose veins.

Treatments

* VNUS Closure® (Click  to 0pen the window to go toVNUS Closure Video)
* Endovenous Laser (EVL) (Click  to View RF Thermal Ablation Device Outperforms Endovenous Laser)
* Vein Stripping………CLICK & SEE
* Phlebectomy……….CLICK & SEE

Overview
For milder cases of varicose veins and spider veins, physicians generally recommend a variety of self-help, non-surgical measures to ease discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening. These measures include exercise, losing weight, wearing compression stockings, elevating the legs and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting.

Direct medical treatments for spider veins include sclerotherapy, in which the veins are sealed with injections of a chemical solution that closes the vein walls. Spider veins can also be treated with non-invasive lasers, which cause the veins to fade and disappear.

For more severe cases of varicose veins, in which the veins bulge beyond the skin or cause significant pain and swelling, relief usually requires a medical intervention. The traditional surgical approach has been vein stripping, a procedure commonly requiring general anesthesia in which incisions are made near the knee and groin and the diseased primary vein is literally pulled from the body using a device. While reasonably effective, vein stripping generally produces significant post-operative pain and bruising, and usually requires a lengthy and uncomfortable recovery period.

In the United States, however, vein stripping has been rendered virtually obsolete by new, minimally invasive catheter technology that enables even severe varicose veins to be successfully treated in a doctor’s office under a local anesthetic in just a few minutes. A device is inserted into the diseased vein, where a catheter or fiber delivers either radiofrequency (RF) or laser energy to heat and seal the vessel. The technique is extremely successful and far less painful and traumatic to the patient than vein stripping.

Endovenous laser (EVL) devices utilize an optical fiber to deliver extremely high heat – over 700 degrees centigrade – that boils the blood in the vein to create a clotting effect that seals the vein as the device is withdrawn. Radiofrequency devices operate at far lower temperatures to heat and shrink the vein walls, limiting the impact on surrounding tissues and, according to a clinical study, causing significantly less pain and bruising than laser.

Physicians using the VNUS® ClosureFAST™ catheter, the only radiofrequency device on the market today for the treatment of venous reflux,  report that most patients return to normal activity almost immediately following the procedure, with little or no post operative pain.

Compression Stockings.
For more severe varicose veins, your physician may prescribe compression stockings. Compression stockings are elastic stockings that squeeze your veins and stop excess blood from flowing backward. In this way, compression stockings also can help heal skin sores and prevent them from returning. You may be required to wear compression stockings daily for the rest of your life. For many patients, compression stockings effectively treat varicose veins and may be all that are needed to relieve pain and swelling and prevent future problems.

When these kinds of treatments alone do not relieve your varicose veins, you may require a surgical or minimally invasive treatment, depending upon the extent and severity of the varicose veins. These treatments include sclerotherapy, ablation, vein stripping, and laser treatment.

Sclerotherapy

During sclerotherapy, your physician injects a chemical into your varicose veins. The chemical irritates and scars your veins from the inside out so your abnormal veins can then no longer fill with blood. Blood that would normally return to the heart through these veins returns to the heart through other veins. Your body will eventually absorb the veins that received the injection.

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://www.vnus.com/vascular-disease/varicose-veins/diagnosis-of-varicose-veins.aspx

http://www.vascularweb.org/patients/NorthPoint/Varicose_Veins.html

http://www.avtherapies.com/varicose-veins.php?gclid=CO7WodevxpsCFQ_xDAodqgvhAA

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

fMRI - Functional magnetic resonance imaging s...

Image by MacRonin47 via Flickr

Definition:
MRI is a noninvasive technique for visualizing many different body tissues. Unlike x-rays, MRI does not use any radiation. Instead, it uses radio waves, a large magnet, and a computer to create images.As with a CT scan, which does use x-rays, each MRI picture shows a different “slice,” or cross-section, of the area being viewed. Because these slices usually are spaced about a quarter-inch apart, your doctor can get a detailed representation of a particular area.

Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily aligns all the water molecules in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned particles to produce very faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread.

The MRI machine can combine these slices to produce 3-D images that may be viewed from many different angles.

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You may click to see more MRI pictures

MRI of the brain and spinal cord:
MRI is the most sensitive imaging test of the brain and spinal cord. It’s often performed to help diagnose:

*Tumors
*Developmental abnormalities
*Aneurysms
*Stroke
*Pituitary gland diseases
*Multiple sclerosis
*Dementia progression
*Spinal cord injuries

Functional MRI of the brain (fMRI) can be used to identify important language and movement control areas in the brain in people who are being considered for brain surgery.

MRI of the heart and blood vessels:
An MRI that focuses on the heart or blood vessels can assess:

*The size and thickness of walls in the heart’s chambers
*The extent of damage caused by heart attack or heart disease
*The buildup of plaques and blockages in the blood vessels
*Structural problems in the aorta, such as aneurysms or dissections
*MRI of other internal organs

An MRI may be used to check for tumors or other abnormalities of the:

*Lungs
*Liver
*Kidneys
*Spleen
*Pancreas
*Uterus
*Ovaries
*Prostate
*Testicles

MRI of bones and joints
MRI may be used to help evaluate:

*Joint disorders, such as arthritis
*Joint abnormalities caused by traumatic or repetitive injuries
*Disk abnormalities in the spine
*Bone infections

MRI of the breasts
MRI may be used in addition to mammography to detect breast cancer, particularly in women who have dense breast tissue or who may be at high risk of the disease.


Risks Factors
:
For most individuals, there are no known harmful effects from exposure to the magnetic field or radio waves used in making MRI images. Allergic reactions to the dye are very rare.

Preparation for the test:-
Before an MRI exam, eat normally and continue to take your usual medications, unless otherwise instructed. You will be asked to change into a gown and to remove:

*Jewelry
*Hairpins
*Eyeglasses
*Watches
*Wigs
*Dentures
*Hearing aids
*Underwire bras

The presence of metal in your body may be a safety hazard or affect a portion of the MRI image. Tell the technologist if you have any metal or electronic devices in your body, such as:

*Metallic joint prostheses
*Artificial heart valves
*An implantable heart defibrillator
*A pacemaker
*Metal clips to prevent aneurysms from leaking
*Cochlear implants
*A bullet, shrapnel or any other type of metal fragment

Also tell the technologist if you think you’re pregnant, because the effects of magnetic fields on fetuses aren’t well understood. Your doctor may recommend choosing an alternative exam or postponing the MRI.

It’s also important to discuss any kidney or liver problems with your physician and the technologist, because problems with these organs may impose limitations on the use of injected contrast agents during your scan

If you know you have an implant, or are concerned, discuss the issue with your doctor, as other options may exist. (Some pacemakers, for example, can be reprogrammed prior to an MRI so that they are not disrupted.)

An IV is inserted into a vein if the particular scan you’re having requires a dye to make areas of inflammation or abnormality easier to detect. This dye is called gadolinium, and is different from the contrast dye used for x-rays or CT scans. Before undergoing the scan, remove metal objects such as belt buckles or watches, which could dislodge in the presence of the magnet and hurt you.

What happens when the test is performed?

During the test:
The MRI machine looks like a tunnel that has both ends open. You lie down on a movable table that slides into the opening of the tunnel. A technologist monitors you from another room. You can talk with him or her by microphone.

The MRI machine creates a strong magnetic field around you, and radio waves are directed at your body. The procedure is painless. You don’t feel the magnetic field or radio waves, and there are no moving parts around you.

During the MRI scan, the internal part of the magnet produces repetitive tapping, thumping sounds and other noises. Earplugs or music may be provided to help block the noise. If you are worried about feeling claustrophobic inside the MRI machine, talk to your doctor beforehand. He or she may make arrangements for you to receive a sedative before the scan.

An MRI typically lasts about an hour. You must hold very still because movement can blur the resulting images. In some cases, contrast agents are injected into your veins to enhance the appearance of certain tissues or blood vessels in the images.

During a functional MRI, you may be asked to perform a number of small tasks — such as tapping your thumb against your fingers, rubbing a block of sandpaper or answering simple questions. This helps pinpoint the portions of your brain that control these actions.

After the test:
If you haven’t been sedated, you may resume your usual activities immediately after the scan. Nursing mothers shouldn’t breast-feed for 36 to 48 hours after an MRI if a contrast material was used. Very rarely, the contrast material can cause hives and itching.

A radiologist — a doctor specially trained to interpret MRIs — will analyze the images from your scan and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss any important findings and next steps with you.

It can be difficult if you are uneasy in tight spaces or have trouble lying flat for that amount of time. If you think you might have trouble getting through the procedure, talk to your doctor beforehand and discuss whether an anti-anxiety medicine might help. After the test is done, you can go about your normal activities.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?
MRI images are often recorded on film; if so, it will take at least an hour for the MRI department to develop the images and additional time for a doctor to examine and interpret them. If the images are stored in and displayed by a computer, there is no time required to develop the images, although the doctor’s interpretation still takes time. You can probably get preliminary results within a day or two, but the complete results might take four to seven days.

Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mri/MY00227
https://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/magnetic-resonance-imaging-of-the-brain.htm
http://www.draimaging.com/mri.htm

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Child Epilepsy

Definition:
Epilepsy is a nervous system condition that causes electrical signals in the brain to misfire. These disruptions cause temporary communication problems between nerve cells, leading to seizures. One seizure is not considered epilepsy — kids with epilepsy have multiple seizures over a period of time.

Epilepsy affects people in all nations and of all races. The onset of epilepsy is most common during childhood and after age 65, but the condition can occur at any age. Epilepsy is a condition of the nervous system that affects 2.5 million Americans. More than 180,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy every year. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. These physical changes are called epileptic seizures Seizures occur when there’s a sudden change in the normal way your brain cells communicate through electrical signals. Seizures can be triggered in anyone under certain conditions, such as life-threatening dehydration or high temperature. Other types of seizures not classified as epilepsy include those caused by an imbalance of body fluids or chemicals or by alcohol or drug withdrawal. A single seizure does not mean that the person has epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test for epilepsy.

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Epilepsy:

* is not the only cause of childhood seizures
* is not a mental illness
* does not usually affect intelligence
* is not contagious
* does not typically worsen over time

Causes of Epilepsy

In about half the cases of epilepsy, there is an identifiable cause.The common Causes are:-

*Injury to baby during delivery

*Hydrocephalus-excessive fluid in the brain

*Delay in delivery with decreased oxygen supply to brain.

* infectious illness (such as meningitis or encephalitis)
* brain malformation during pregnancy
* trauma to the brain (including lack of oxygen) during birth or an accident
* underlying metabolic disorders

* brain tumors,tuberculosis, parasites in the brain

*Drugs e.g. pencillin chloroquine, medicines for depression, angina.

* blood vessel malformation
* strokes
* chromosome disorders

The other half of epilepsy cases are idiopathic (the cause is unknown). In some of these, there may be a family history of epilepsy — a child who has a parent or other close family member with the condition is more likely to have it too. Researchers are working to determine what specific genetic factors are responsible.

Symptoms :

Some Symptoms of Epilepsy :

* Seizures

*Fainting.

*Memory loss.

*Changes in mood or energy level.

*Dizziness.

*Headache.

*Confusion.
Understanding Seizures
Seizures vary in severity, frequency, and duration (they typically last from a few seconds to several minutes). There are many different kinds of seizures, and what occurs during one depends on where in the brain the electrical signals are disrupted.

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The two main categories of seizures are generalized seizures, which involve the whole brain, and partial seizures, which involve only part of the brain. Some people with epilepsy experience both kinds.

Seizures can be scary — a child may lose consciousness or jerk or thrash violently. Milder seizures may leave a child confused or unaware of his or her surroundings. Some seizures are so small that only an experienced eye could detect them — a child may simply blink or stare into space for a moment before resuming normal activity.

During a seizure, it’s very important to stay calm and keep your child safe. Be sure to:

*Lay your child down away from furniture, stairs, or radiators.
*Put something soft under his or her head.
*Turn your child on his or her side so fluid in the mouth can come out.
*Never stick anything in your child’s mouth or try to restrain him or her.

Do your best to note how often the seizures take place, what happens during them, and how long they last and report this to your doctor. Once a seizure is over, watch your child for signs of confusion. He or she may want to sleep and you should allow that. Do not give extra medication unless the doctor has prescribed it.

Children who suffer from partial seizures may be frightened or confused by what has happened. Offer plenty of comfort and reassure your child that you’re there and everything is OK.

Most seizures are not life-threatening, but if one lasts longer than 5 minutes or your child seems to have trouble breathing afterward, call 999 for immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis
Talk to your doctor if your child has seizures, staring spells, confusion spells, shaking spells, or unexplained deterioration of school performance. The doctor can refer you to a paediatric neurologist, who will take a patient medical history and examine your child, looking for findings that suggest problems with the brain and the rest of the neurologic system.

If the doctor suspects epilepsy, tests will be ordered, which may include:

1) electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain via sensors secured to the scalp while the child lays on a bed. It is a painless test, which takes about 1 hour.
2) a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test
3) a computerised tomography (CT) scan, both of which look at images of the brain

Treating Epilepsy
Your doctor will use the test and exam results to determine the best form of treatment. Medication to prevent seizures is usually the first type of treatment prescribed for epilepsy management. Many children can be successfully treated with one medication — and if the first doesn’t work, the doctor will usually try a second or even a third before resorting to combinations of medications.

Although medications often work, if your child is unresponsive after the second or third attempts, it’s less likely that subsequent medications will be effective. In this case, surgery to remove the affected part of the brain may be necessary. Epilepsy surgery is done in less than 10% of seizure patients, and only after an extensive screening and evaluation process.

Additional treatments can be used for epilepsy that is unresponsive to medications. The doctor may implant a vagus nerve stimulator in the neck, or recommend a ketogenic diet, a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that can be very successful in helping to manage seizures.

Even people who respond successfully to medication sometimes have seizures (called “breakthrough seizures”). These don’t mean your child’s medication needs to be changed, although you should let the doctor know when they occur.

Click to see Suppliment recomendations for Epilepsy

Living With Epilepsy
To help prevent seizures, make sure your child:

* takes medication(s) as prescribed
* avoids triggers (such as fever and overtiredness)
* sees the neurologist as recommended — about two to four times a year — even if responding well to medication

Keeping your child well-fed, well-rested, and non-stressed are all key factors that can help manage epilepsy. You should also take common-sense precautions based on how well-controlled the epilepsy is. For example:

* Younger children should have only supervised baths.
* Swimming or bike-riding alone are not good ideas for kids with epilepsy. A helmet is required for cycling, as for all kids.

With some simple safety precautions, your child should be able to play, participate in sports or other activities, and generally do what other children like to do. Teenagers with epilepsy will probably be able to drive with some restrictions, as long as the seizures are controlled.

It’s important to make sure that other adults who care for your child — family members, babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc. — know that your child has epilepsy, understand the condition, and know what to do in the event of a seizure.

Offer your child plenty of support, discuss epilepsy openly, and answer questions honestly. Children with epilepsy may be embarrassed about the seizures, or worry about having one at school or with friends.

Epilepsy (children) – newer drugs

Epilepsy – a parent’s guide

Seizures and Epilepsy

Helping Your Child Cope With Epilepsy

Fears over child epilepsy drugs

Parents to deal with Epilectic Chield

Resources:
http://www.charliebrewersworld.com/page4.htm
http://www-epilepsy.com/

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Brain’s Role in Autism Probed

A psychology researcher has pinpointed regions of the brain that are linked to “ritualistic repetitive behavior” in autistic children — the insatiable desire to rock back and forth for hours or to tirelessly march in place.

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Keith Shafritz, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University on Long Island, compared brain images of autistic children with those of neurologically normal youngsters. He and collaborators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill used a form of magnetic resonance imaging to explore sites in the brain.

They reported their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Repetitive behavior is one of autism’s core traits. It has driven parents to extremes as they try to distract a child to engage in other activities.

Mapping the brain constitutes a journey into the inner labyrinths of a three-pound cosmos where countless frontiers have yet to be explored.

In children with autism, Shafritz found deficits in specific regions of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of gray matter linked to all higher human functions, including repetitive behavior. He also mapped deficits in the basal ganglia, a region deep below the cerebral hemispheres.

“We like to think about the research process as discovering clues why people engage in certain behaviors,” Shafritz said. “We were able to identify a series of brain regions that showed diminished activity when people were asked to alter certain behaviors and were not able to do so.”

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is becoming a major public policy issue. Federal health officials estimate that it afflicts 1 in every 150 children, which affects not only families but communities.

School systems don’t have enough appropriately trained teachers. Social services departments are overwhelmed by parents who need support and respite care.

For clues to the disorder, some scientists are scanning the human genome for suspect DNA.

Others, like Shafritz, are exploring the geography of the brain.

Edward G. Carr, a psychology professor at Stony Brook University in New York, said Shafritz’s discovery was important because it helped demystify repetitive behavior.

“Repetitive behavior is sometimes called self-stimulatory behavior. A very common form of it is body-rocking. A child will do it for hours,” Carr said. “Another child may wave his or her hands back and forth in front of their eyes. This is very common, and it’s called hand-flapping. They extend their arms forward and wave their hands in front of them. It’s like a light show.”

Shafritz said the brain areas associated with repetitious behavior were not associated with another autism problem, self-injury. Some children repeatedly slam their heads against a wall, for instance.

Still, Shafritz found a relationship between the newly identified brain areas and overlapping regions linked to schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dr. Anil K. Malhotra, director of psychiatric research at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said he was not surprised. He too is studying links between autism and schizophrenia, and autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Sources:Los Angles Times