News on Health & Science

A Way to Measure Pain!

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Using brain scans, a team at the Oxford University has carried out a series of studies which have shown distinct differences between the brains of people in pain and others who are not.

“Pain seems to increase the blood flow to certain parts of the brain roughly in proportion to the amount of pain felt, and we can measure that activation in a brain scan,” the team’s leader Prof Irene Tracey said.

What the scientists have found is that the brain possesses what they call a “pain matrix”, with such feelings typically activating more than a dozen parts of the brain, ‘The Sunday Times‘ reported.

This is in contrast to other senses such as vision or hearing, where stimuli are generally fed to just one part of the brain for interpretation.

Source: The Times Of India

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Meditation News on Health & Science

Meditation Key to Treat Depression

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People with severe and recurrent depression could benefit from a new form of therapy that combines ancient forms of meditation with modern   cognitive behaviour therapy, early-stage research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.


The results of a small-scale randomised trial of the approach, called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), in currently depressed patients are published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.

In an experiment, 28 people currently suffering from depression, having also had previous episodes of depression and thoughts of suicide, were randomly assigned into two groups.

One group received MBCT in addition to treatment as usual, while the other just received treatment as usual. The result indicated that the number of patients with major depression reduced in the group which received treatment with MBCT while it remained the same in the other group.

The therapy included special classes of meditation learning and advice on how best participants can look after themselves when their feelings threaten to overwhelm them.

Professor Mark Williams, who along with his colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, developed the treatment said, “We are on the brink of discovering really important things about how people can learn to stay well after depression.”

Sources: The Times Of India


News on Health & Science

Four Stones of Extra Weight Can Take Three Years Off Your Life

Carrying four stones of excess weight can cost you three years of life, warn researchers.

A study of almost a million adults has given the clearest indication yet of the mortal dangers of obesity.

Those who are extremely overweight could lose ten years of their life, it says.

New research has shown that people who are carrying too much weight are taking years off their lives

.Scientists from Oxford University assessed the impact of obesity by analysing data from 57 separate studies.
They found a clear link between high body mass index scores and an early grave.

Using BMI gives a good measure of how overweight a person is, because it compares weight to height.

But the scientists also gave an estimate of how much excess weight could be dangerous compared with an ‘ideal’ weight.
Co-researcher Dr Gary Whitlock said ‘Excess weight shortens human lifespan.

‘In countries like Britain and America, weighing a third more than the optimum shortens lifespan by about 3 years.
‘For most people, a third more than the optimum means carrying 20 to 30 kilograms – 50 to 60 pounds, or 4 stone – of excess weight.

‘If you are becoming overweight or obese, avoiding further weight gain could well add years to your life.’
Official UK figures show nearly one in four adults is obese, 38 per cent are overweight and children are rapidly piling on the pounds.

The relentless rise in the obesity epidemic means the number of adults tipping the scales as dangerously overweight has almost doubled over the last 10 years.

The National Audit Office estimates obesity causes at least 30,000 deaths a year in the UK, through conditions such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

It costs the NHS at least £500million a year to treat and the wider economy £2billion.
The BMI measurement is used to calculate whether a person is a
healthy weight, in which an individual divides weight (in kilos) by the square of their height (in metres).

Under 18.5 is underweight, 18.5-25 is healthy weight, 25-30 is overweight, 30-35 is obese and over 35 is very obese.
The study found having a BMI above the ‘ideal’ range of 22.5 to 25 led to higher death rates.

Above BMI of 25, each additional five units on the BMI scale increased overall mortality by around a third.
The investigation, called the Prospective Studies Collaboration, pooled information on 894,576 adults mostly from western Europe and North America with an average age of 46 and an average BMI of 25.

As well as looking at overall death rates, the researchers linked BMI scores with common causes of death through ill health.
Each additional five BMI units corresponded with a 40 per cent increase in deaths from heart and artery disease and strokes.

The same rise in BMI led to an increase in deaths of between 60 per cent and 120 per cent from diabetes and liver or kidney disease, 10 per cent more from cancer, and one-fifth rise from lung disease.
‘Moderate’ obesity, which is now common in western countries in the BMI range of 30 to 35, reduced survival by between two and four years.

Severe obesity in the 40 to 45 BMI range cut lifespans by eight to 10 years, comparable to the effects of smoking, said co-researcher Professor Sir Richard Peto.
The authors stressed even overweight people who cannot slim could extend their lives by avoiding further weight gain.
‘In adult life, it may be easier to avoid substantial weight gain than to lose that weight once it has been gained’ says the report.

It says that by avoiding a further increase from a BMI of 28 to 32, a typical person in early middle age would gain about two years of life expectancy.

Alternatively, by avoiding an increase from BMI of 24 to 32 – a third above the apparent optimum – a young adult would on average gain about three extra years of life, it says.

Dr David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said ‘This is a very good study from a first-class institution.
‘It tells us that obesity is going to cut your life short and kill you from a number of diseases, ranging from diabetes through to cardiovascular disorders.

‘Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, and we’ve seen clear evidence of the health risks over the last 50 years.

‘But the obesity epidemic hasn’t been with us for long enough to see the really bad effects on health in later life and the premature deaths.
‘The message is getting through about smoking and I hope we’ll see the same with obesity.’


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News on Health & Science

Glasses that Change With Eye Power

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A British scientist has designed a unique pair of glasses that can be adjusted by a wearer without any optician’s help, and one million pairs of which will soon be distributed in India.


Professor Joshua Silver is hopeful that his self-adjusting glasses could enable a billion people in the developing world to receive spectacles for the first time within just over a decade.

Silver, a retired Oxford University physics professor, is even preparing to launch an ambitious scheme in India to distribute one million pairs in a year. He revealed that he came up with the idea in what he describes as a “glimpse of the obvious”, reports the Telegraph.

The adaptive glasses are designed in such a way that they can be “tuned” by the wearer to suit their eyes, and that too without the need for a prescription. In fact, the spectacles can help both short-sighted and long-sighted people.

After 20 years’ of research he has finally come up with a design which can be made cheaply on a large scale. He focussed on the principle that thicker lenses are more powerful than thin ones. Using this principle he designed spectacles that can be adjusted by injecting tiny quantities of fluid.

The tough plastic glasses have thin sacs of liquid in the centre of each lens. They come with small syringes attached to each arm with a dial for the wearer to add or remove fluid from the lens. After adjusting the lenses, the syringes are removed and the spectacles can be worn just like a prescription pair. The invention would provide spectacles for the first time to millions of people in poorer parts of the world, where opticians are in short supply

: The Times Of India

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News on Health & Science

Faith in God Can Relieve Pain

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Religion is the opiate of the people” – Karl Marx had famously said. But can one’s faith in God really ease pain? “Yes”, say scientists. SPAN>


A team at Oxford University has based its findings on an experiment in which 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists were “tortured” with electric shocks as they studied two paintings – Virgin Mary and Leonardo da Vinci‘s Lady With An Ermine.

The subjects spent half-an-hour inside an MRI scanner, receiving a series of 20 electric shocks in four sessions and each time they had to rate how much it hurt on a scale of 0 to 100 as they looked at the paintings.

The researchers hoped that the face of the Virgin Mary would induce a religious state of mind in the believers, while da Vinci’s painting was chosen because it did not look dissimilar and would be calming.

The scientists found that the Catholics seemed to be able to block out much of the pain.

And, using the latest brain-scanning techniques, they also discovered that the Catholics were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning experience of pain, the Daily Mail reported.

However, there was no such brain activity among the atheists whose pain and anxiety levels stayed roughly the same.

The Catholics said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary made them feel “safe”, “taken care of” and “calmed down and peaceful”.

More significantly, they reported feeling 12% less pain after viewing the religious image than after looking at the Leonardo.

The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, welcomed the research, saying: “The practice of faith should, and in many cases does, alter the person you are. It can affect the patterns of your brain and your emotions. So it comes as no surprise to me that this experiment has reached such conclusions.”

Sources: The Times Of India

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