With the proliferation of smart phones, portable gaming systems and media players, more children—especially teenagers—are listening to ear buds and headphones at dangerously high volume levels. Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is offering tips to parents and teenagers to help prevent long-term hearing loss.

According to a Vanderbilt-led study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss is now affecting 20 percent of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 19, which is a 5 percent increase over the past 15 years.

A separate study by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found that teenagers typically listen to devices at a louder volume than adults, and that these same teenagers already have symptoms of hearing loss.

Kristina Rigsby, Au.D., a pediatric audiologist at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, says listening to devices with levels over 80 dB for extended periods of time may be potentially dangerous.

Prolonged exposure to high volume exhausts the auditory system, she explains. Over time, the hair cells in the ear start to degenerate because they aren’t receiving proper blood flow and oxygen.

“When you are listening to these devices at high levels and for long periods of time, you are putting yourself at risk for hearing loss,” Rigsby said. “Hearing loss is permanent, so once you’ve done the damage, there’s no getting it back.” 

If parents can hear sound coming from their child’s headphones while they are wearing them, it’s too loud, Rigsby said. A good rule of thumb is the “60/60 rule,” which means using only 60 percent of the device’s volume level for no more than 60 minutes at a time. After 60 minutes, give your ears a break for at least an hour, she said.

Other suggestions include: 
· Investing in high-quality, “noise cancelling” headphones that cover the entire ear. Ear buds allow more background noise to seep in, so children often turn up the volume to compensate.
· Using hearing protection such as custom-made ear plugs. These can be used while playing music, attending concerts or in other loud environments like movie theaters and firework shows.
· Setting volume restrictions on your child’s personal electronic devices. 

Weight Loss Surgery and Diabetes: Expert Interview Opportunity

Published on : 28-03-2012 11:59:08     -    138 Views    

Most Women with Lupus Can Have Successful Pregnancy Outcomes

Published on : 06-11-2011 10:54:59     -    51 Views    


Newswise — Promising research led by investigators at Hospital for Special Surgery may offer hope for women with lupus who once thought that pregnancy was too risky.

Results from the multicenter National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded PROMISSE initiative, being presented Monday, Nov. 7 and then during a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 8, during the American College of Rheumatology’s 2011 Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago, show that most women with stable lupus can have successful pregnancies.

“There was a misconception, based on outdated experience, that women with lupus should not try to have children,” said Jane Salmon, M.D., the study’s senior author and Collette Kean Research Chair at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Now that our treatments are more effective and we have a better understanding of the disease, we can identify a window when pregnancy is safe and outcomes are good for mother and fetus.”

Historically, women with systemic lupus erythematosus (also know as SLE or lupus) have been advised not to become pregnant because of risks to their own and their fetus’ health. SLE is a chronic inflammatory disease, in which the body’s own immune system attacks tissues of the body and can cause complications during pregnancy.

Dr. Salmon, together with Dr. Jill Buyon from New York University Medical Center, and their collaborators evaluated 333 pregnant women with lupus from the PROMISSE Study (Predictors of pRegnancy Outcome: BioMarkers In antiphospholipid antibody Syndrome and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus), which seeks to identify biomarkers that predict poor pregnancy outcomes. The research team found that 80 percent of lupus patients had a favorable pregnancy outcome.

Patients with lupus may be free of symptoms for long periods of time and then experience a disease “flare,” when symptoms such as rash, joint pain, chest pain, swollen legs, bruising and/or fatigue suddenly appear.

“Most women with stable lupus, defined as limited disease activity and no flares during the time of conception and the first trimester, had successful pregnancies,” explained Dr. Salmon, who is also the principal investigator of the PROMISSE Study. “We learn from these results that timing is a most important element for successful pregnancy in women with lupus and that avoiding pregnancy during periods of increased disease activity is essential.”

In the study, two categories of pregnancy complications were evaluated: the health of the mother and of the fetus. The research team studied development of mild, moderate, or severe increases of lupus activity, or flares, in expectant mothers. For the fetus, the study examined the worst outcome – death – or situations in which the well being of the child would require extended hospitalization in a critical care unit.

Of the 333 women with lupus studied, 63 had poor outcomes. Ten percent of mothers experienced preeclampsia, a serious complication characterized by the onset of high blood pressure and appearance of protein in the urine. Ten percent experienced mild or moderate flares at 20 weeks and eight percent experienced flares at 32 weeks. Nineteen women experienced death of the fetus and 30 women delivered before 36 weeks or had newborns of small gestational size – smaller in size than normal for the baby's sex and gestational age, commonly defined as a weight below the 10th percentile for gestational age.

None of the women in the study was pregnant with more than one fetus, took more than 20 mg/d of prednisone, or had abnormally high excretion of protein or impaired kidney function. The women who experienced complications had more active lupus at 20 and 32 weeks and higher levels of antiphospholipid antibodies.

The PROMISSE study was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health in 2003 to identify biomarkers that would predict poor pregnancy outcomes in lupus patients. To date, the PROMISSE investigative team has enrolled 647 volunteers who are monitored with monthly checkups and research laboratory studies looking at genes and circulating proteins that may predict the course of pregnancy. PROMISSE will continue through 2013 with $12.3 million in support over ten years from NIAMS and the office of Research in Women’s Health. Dr. Salmon and co-investigators from 11 academic centers will continue to examine a broad range of genes and molecular pathways that can affect pregnancy in women with lupus, and, it is anticipated that their findings will have applications for the prevention of miscarriage and preeclampsia in healthy women.

The PROMISSE Study is coordinated by Dr. Salmon; Other investigators include Michael Lockshin, M.D., and Lisa Sammaritano, M.D., at Hospital for Special Surgery; Jill Buyon, M.D., at New York University School of Medicine; Ware Branch, M.D., at University of Utah Health Sciences Center; Carl Laskin, M.D., at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada; Joan Merrill, M.D., at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation; Michelle Petri, M.D., MPH, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Mimi Kim, D.Sc., at Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Mary Stephenson, M.D., at the University of Chicago.


“We need to do more studies to see if more pharmacologically-based timing of when you hold these medications—maybe tie it more to their half life—might potentially decrease rates of postoperative flares,” said Lisa Mandl, M.D. MPH, a rheumatologist at HSS. She is principal investigator of the study that will be presented on Nov. 8 at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting.

To investigate the issue in knee replacement surgery, a common surgery in RA patients, researchers utilized data from the HSS Total Joint Replacement Registry. This prospective registry started in 2007 includes, among other things, data on all patients who seek care at HSS for a total knee replacement (TKR). “Other institutions may have similar registries, but we do such a high volume of surgeries that other people might take decades to get what we do in a few years. We have large numbers and it is a contemporary registry, so it’s not 10,000 patients over the last 20 years. It is 20,000 over the last five years,” Dr. Mandl said. The database gives doctors a snapshot of what is happening in present day practice.

While the recommended stop time should have been based on the half-life of the medications (how long the medicines stay in the body), the data did not show this to be the case. For individuals on etanercept, which has a half-life of 3 to 5.5 days, the average stop time was 2.4 weeks prior to surgery. For adalimumab, which has a half-life of 1.4 to 2.9 weeks, the average stop time was 4.6 weeks. For infliximab, which has a half-life of 1 to 1.7 weeks, the average stop time was 4.9 weeks.

Investigators analyzed self-reported flares within one month of surgery as well as six-month adverse events, including surgical site infection, pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis, re-operations, and infections such as pneumonia. They found no statistically significant difference in adverse events between patients who received anti-TNFs and those who did not. The self-reported RA flare rate was higher in the anti-TNF groups (22.4% vs. 16.9%), although this difference was not statistically significant (P=0.47).

She said that more work should be done to evaluate if the half-lives of the medications should be considered more carefully when determining when to pull the drugs from patients before a procedure. “Maybe we won’t have to stop patients so early,” Dr. Mandl said. “We need to think a little bit more about how we hold them to optimize how patients do after surgery.”

The HSS Total Joint Replacement Registry was initially funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics.


First-Ever Procedure in Regionís Only Hybrid Operating Room

Published on : 05-11-2011 03:40:21     -    49 Views    


Newswise — UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center experts have performed San Diego’s first-ever coronary revascularization procedure using a hybrid operating room, the only facility of its kind in the region. The state-of-the-art operating room allows patients to be treated in one place at one time without having to schedule multiple procedures. The result is less time in the operating room and reduced costs for hospitalization.

“Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center’s state-of-the-art surgical suite allows cardiologists and surgeons to move seamlessly between minimally invasive and open or endovascular procedures without needing to move the patient,” said Ehtisham Mahmud, MD, co-director of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center. “We are the only ones who offer this option in San Diego. This model of care is better for patients and the future of heart surgery.”

62-year-old Glen Barnard – who suffered a heart attack seven weeks ago – is the first heart patient to benefit from a new approach in the newly-opened hybrid operating room. “Because of the location of my heart blockages, I was going to have to have open heart surgery which really scared me,” said Bernard. “Then, the Sulpizio physicians explained this hybrid option: two procedures on the same day at the same time. I felt comfortable with the idea and with the team. I was up and walking the next day and two days later I was in physical therapy.”

Under traditional circumstances, Barnard’s heart condition would have required either a traditional open heart coronary bypass operation or two intense operations with recovery time after each separate procedure. The capabilities of the hybrid OR makes it possible to combine the traditional diagnostic/interventional functions of a catheterization lab with the surgical functions of an operating room.

“Our new set-up allows the physicians from two different disciplines to merge their expertise in one room for the benefit of the patient,” added Michael Madani, MD, co-director of Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center. “Here, two teams – the surgeon’s team and the cardiologist’s team – work as one to achieve optimal results while improving patient care and efficiency.”

The hybrid OR allowed Dr. Madani to perform a bypass on one vessel, using a small incision and the DaVinci robot. The team then converted the operating room into a catheterization lab, in less than 15 minutes, allowing Dr. Mahmud to stent Barnard’s other blockage.

The hybrid OR’s multi-disciplinary approach is also being utilized for open heart surgery and vascular surgery, bringing together experts in cardiology, electrophysiology and cardiac surgery.

“I feel pretty lucky to have qualified for this procedure. Life is good. My wife and I just got back from Las Vegas and we’re planning a trip up the California coastline,” said Bernard.

New Drug Shows Promise Against Multiple Sclerosis

Published on : 02-11-2011 05:22:56     -    0 Views    


Newswise — An experimental drug called Ocrelizumab has shown promise in a Phase 2 clinical trial involving 220 people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an often debilitating, chronic autoimmune disease that affects an increasing number of people in North America. It usually strikes young adults and is more common in women than in men.

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, and involving hospitals in the United States, Canada, and Europe, is described this week in the British medical journal Lancet.

The study involved patients with relapsing-remitting MS, a form of the disease marked by the accumulation of lesions in the brain and spinal cord and periodic “attacks” of neurological impairment.

The 220 patients were randomly enrolled into four groups – two that received injections of the monoclonal antibody Ocrelizumab at two different doses, one that received the standard multiple sclerosis drug interferon-beta, and one “control” group that was given a placebo.

The doctors gauged the effectiveness of each treatment by performing monthly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of the patients and counting the number of visible marks that indicate inflamed lesions, a hallmark of the disease. They also compared the severity and frequency of neurological “attacks” that cause loss of vision, incoordination, weakness and numbness, among other symptoms.

The results of this trial showed that patients who received the drug generally fared well and showed fewer signs of the disease than patients who receive a placebo or the standard Interferon treatment. Overall, the trial found that Ocrelizumab led to a 89 percent reduction in the formation of brain lesions, and it also reduced the number of new multiple sclerosis attacks over 24 weeks. During this relatively short-term study, interferon performed no better than placebo on these outcomes.

“It really is a remarkable finding,” said Stephen Hauser, MD, the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at UCSF who was the senior author on the study. “This is extremely exciting, both in terms of the prospect of improved therapy for people with multiple sclerosis but also for the lessons that it teaches us about the fundamental cause of the disease.”

“The prospect of an extremely effective therapy for multiple sclerosis that can be safely administered at six month intervals could represent a major step forward, if the safety profile and benefits are sustained over longer periods of use,” he added.

At 24 weeks, serious adverse events were reported in 4 percent of patients in the placebo arm, 4 percent of those taking interferon, and 2 percent and 6 percent of patients taking 600 mg and 2000 mg of Ocrelizumab. One patient taking Ocrelizumab died, but the relationship with the study drug, if any, is as yet unclear.

Hauser said that the next step for the drug will be to see if the drug’s effect and positive safety profile will be sustained over time. These questions will be addressed in two parallel Phase 3 trials, now enrolling a larger number of patients who will receive the drug regimens for a longer period of time. This trial is now underway at several hundred sites around the world. Hauser serves as lead investigator for these trials, which are sponsored by Roche, the company that owns Ocrelizumab.

What the Trial Suggests About Multiple Sclerosis

Besides the obvious question of whether the drug would work, also under scrutiny in the clinical trial was whether a drug like Ocrelizumab would work in the first place. Its mechanism of action is fundamentally different than other existing therapies for multiple sclerosis. All multiple sclerosis drugs work by targeting a person’s immune system – only they target fundamentally different parts.

In multiple sclerosis, a person’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath that insulated nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Most of these attacks have no associated symptoms, but damage to these sheaths can short circuit signals traveling along the nerve fibers. This disrupts the normal flow of communication from the brain and can cause a range of symptoms – including visual impairment, weakness, sensory disturbance, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and loss of coordination.

For decades, work in the field has focused on targeting one component of the immune system – the T cells – which were always seen as the “smoking gun” of the disease because they attack nerve fibers in the brain, causing the lesions and ultimately the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Ocrelizumab, in contrast, targets a molecule called CD20 found on the surface of B cells, a separate component of the immune system.

Although the mechanism is not exactly clear, said Hauser, the B cells seem to induce the T cells to attack. If T cells are pulling the trigger on nerve fibers in the brain, B cells seem to be the ones that are loading the gun. The Phase 2 trial showed, in essence, that if you block one, you may be able to stop the other.

Hauser said the recently concluded trial validated the idea that targeting the B cells could ultimately help people with multiple sclerosis – an idea that Hauser has championed for more than a decade after basic research in his laboratory in the 1990s suggested that these cells play a role in the disease.

“This is a great example of lessons learned at the bench bringing us to an experiment at the bedside that completely transformed our understanding of what we needed to do to develop more selective and more effective therapy for MS” he said.

The article, “Ocrelizumab in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a phase 2, randomised, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial” by Ludwig Kappos, David Li, Peter A Calabresi, Paul O’Connor, Amit Bar-Or, Frederik Barkhof, Ming Yin, David Leppert, Robert Glanzman, Jeroen Tinbergen, and Stephen L Hauser is published online by the journalLancet on November 1, 2011.

This work was funded by Roche.

In addition to UCSF, the authors of this study are affiliated with University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada; McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Genentech Inc., South San Francisco, CA; Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Basel, Switzerland.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

UAB International Adoption Clinic helps families navigate process

Published on : 02-11-2011 05:18:29     -    0 Views    

UAB International Adoption Clinic Eases Medical Needs for Kids and Parents

Published on : 02-11-2011 05:15:27     -    0 Views    


Newswise — Many families who’ve adopted children will say the same thing — it’s a long process.

“I tell them it takes a while, but it’s completely worth it. Stick with it,” says Tessa Easterling, who adopted daughter Katie in 2005.

The Easterling family worked with the University of Alabama at Birmingham International Adoption Clinic at Children’s South before bringing their baby home from China.

“We divide our services into pre-adoption and post-adoption assistance. Prior to adoption, we provide seminars to help parents understand international adoption,” says Jennifer Chambers, M.D., founder of the 10-year-old UAB IAC and assistant professor of Pediatrics.

After a family receives a child’s file, clinic staff can then help them review it and better understand medical terms or special needs. Chambers says international adoptees from all countries may have emotional or development special needs, while 90 percent of children adopted from China are also considered to have medical special needs.

“This can mean anything from a burn on the toe, club feet, a heart defect, cleft lip or palate or just birth marks,” says Chambers.

The doctors at the IAC clinic also help parents plan to manage any special needs. Eddie and Robyn Kwon, for example, were recently matched with a 14-month-old baby from China who will arrive in the spring. The Kwon’s daughter, Mamie, has a leg shorter than the other, and they’ve been directed to a specialist at the clinic to care for her.

When the Kwons return from China with Mamie, they will bring her to the IAC clinic for evaluation and care for any other medical, emotional or developmental needs.

“In the past 10 years we’ve seen more than 3,000 children from 44 countries. We have 400 clinic visits per year. We see any ages from 6 months to our oldest is 16 this year,” says Chambers, who adopted twin girls from China.

“It was good to come here because the people have years of experience with adopted children. It is great to have someone to call if you had a problem or a question,” Easterling says.

The clinic’s success has not gone unnoticed. Recently, delegates from the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption visited the clinic during a tour in the United States.

“The CCCWA have been adopting kids to U.S. citizens for more than a decade and never have seen an international adoption clinic. This was their first, and that is an honor. We showed them the children are being well cared for,” says Chambers.

Typically, the CCCWA provides a list of eligible children, and prospective parents make their choices using little information provided. But the Chinese recently launched a pilot program that may improve relations. Chambers is participating through a partnership with Lifeline Children’s Services, a Birmingham-area adoption agency.

“They allowed me to visit one orphanage during the summer and meet with the children; I was able to learn more about them,” says Chambers. “That helps parents make a more informed decision about adopting a particular child.”

Chambers says she was happy to demonstrate 10 years of hard work to the Chinese officials who traveled here.

“For me it is huge — not just professionally, but also personally. These are the people who gave me my daughters — half my family is Asian because they allowed me to adopt — and I will be forever grateful for that.”

New Web Search Technology to Aid Researchers Using Oral Histories

Published on : 02-11-2011 05:09:04     -    60 Views    


Newswise — The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded the University of Kentucky Libraries a $195,853 National Leadership Grant to further develop their Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). OHMS is a web-based system that allows users to search for specific terms within recorded oral history interviews. This tool will enable a wide variety of libraries and archives to enrich the use of digital oral history collections and will save considerable time for experienced and inexperienced researchers alike.

"The OHMS system is an ingenious development in synchronizing recorded oral histories with their transcriptions," says Peggy A. Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. "While early oral historians considered the transcription to be authoritative, modern researchers understand that the words of the speaker are the most accurate oral history document. Working with oral testimony, however, has always been difficult without the compromise of a transcription, and the OHMS system allows researchers to coordinate oral documents with their transcripts in a way that preserves the integrity of the oral history."

IMLS National Leadership Grants support projects that have the potential to advance museum, library and archival practice. Grant proposals must address key needs and challenges that face libraries, museums and archives and should have a national impact. The UK Libraries grant for OHMS was presented under the Advancing Digital Resources category. Grant winners in this category support the creation, use, presentation and preservation of significant digital resources, as well as the development of tools to enhance access, use and management of digital assets.

The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, under the direction of Doug Boyd, and Digital Library Services, under the direction of Eric Weig, at UK Libraries created OHMS to inexpensively and efficiently enhance access to and discovery of oral history online. The system provides users word-level search capability and a time-correlated transcript or index connecting the textual search term to the corresponding moment in the recorded interview online. The ability to pinpoint specific terms in lengthy oral history interviews will save the experienced researcher, as well as students or the general history enthusiast lots of time and effort.

"Before the OHMS system, any synchronization of speech and text was arduous," says Bulger. "Dr. Boyd’s work, however, has made this task so easy that inexperienced workers, such as students, can synchronize hours of oral history in very little time. I don’t believe that, in recent times, there has been a development as important as OHMS in the area of oral history transcription."

Since its creation, the Nunn Center has used the OHMS system to upload more than 500 interviews in the past three years. To try an OHMS search of the Nunn Center's oral history collections, visit the Kentuckiana Digital Library at

The new grant project is designed to create compatibility between OHMS and other popular content management systems empowering institutions, both large and small, to provide an effective, user-centered discovery interface for oral history on a large scale. In addition to developing OHMS compatibility with open source content management systems such as OMEKA and KORA, and larger scale commercial systems such as CONTENTdm, this project will develop multimedia tutorials instructing users on the use, installation and deployment of OHMS within particular content management systems. Principal investigators on the project include Boyd; Mary Molinaro, associate dean for Library Technologies; and Weig.

As part of the project, UK Libraries will work directly with multiple institutions that employ different content management systems in order to test the other systems compatibility with OHMS. Institutions taking part in the project include: Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History; Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma Oral History Research Program; MATRIX at Michigan State University; and Cleveland State University’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities. Over the course of the project, UK will also work directly with smaller institutions as well, who want to enhance their online presentation of oral history.

Use Holiday Gatherings to Mine for Family Health History

Published on : 01-11-2011 04:27:51     -    0 Views    


Newswise — If Grandma is coming up from Florida during Thanksgiving to see the grandbabies or Aunt Madge will be at Christmas dinner this year, use this opportunity to learn more about your family health history from people with pertinent knowledge, say University of Alabama at Birmingham genetics experts.

“The holidays are a great time to collect your family history,” says Lynn Holt, M.S., director of the School of Health Professions Genetic Counseling program. “Most people don’t know much about the family history beyond their first-degree relatives, their own parents and siblings.”

Talk to grandparents or great-grandparents and make detailed records on their immediate family — parents, siblings and children. You want to jot down names, year of birth, year of death and any health problems that person may have had. Ask if any siblings died during childhood and if so, why? Many people don’t like to talk about a sibling who died young, but knowing if it happened — and why — can produce very valuable information.

“We sometimes hear people say they’ve been told their mother’s brother dropped dead at age 20, for example,” says Holt. “It’s important to find out why. Was it because of a genetic heart condition that you might have inherited, or is it simply that brother was guilty of some accident that nobody wants to talk about?”

Holt says ask if there is any cancer in the family. If so, ask the kind of cancer and at the age family members first were diagnosed. Age of diagnosis is more medically valuable than age of death in determining heritable conditions.

Ask similar questions about heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions or other common conditions in adulthood. Holt also says to look into any environmental exposures that may explain family health problems such as occupational exposures, smoking or pollution.

And it’s probably best not to bring the subject up over dinner with a crowd. Try to find some quiet time with each member of the older generation and begin the conversation. Many older family members welcome the chance to share the family story and memories of loved ones who have passed away, Holt says.

After you collect all this information, share it with your physician to help determine if there are certain health conditions for which you need to be evaluated based on your family history.

Putting the Body Back Into the Mind of Schizophrenia

Published on : 01-11-2011 04:23:12     -    0 Views    


Newswise — NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A study using a procedure called the rubber hand illusion has found striking new evidence that people experiencing schizophrenia have a weakened sense of body ownership and has produced the first case of a spontaneous, out-of-body experience in the laboratory.

These findings suggest that movement therapy, which trains people to be focused and centered on their own bodies, including some forms of yoga and dance, could be helpful for many of the 2.2 million people in the United States who suffer from this mental disorder.

The study, which appears in the Oct. 31 issue of the scientific journal Public Library of Science One, measured the strength of body ownership of 24 schizophrenia patients and 21 matched control subjects by testing their susceptibility to the “rubber hand illusion” or RHI. This tactile illusion, which was discovered in 1998, is induced by simultaneously stroking a visible rubber hand and the subject’s hidden hand.

“After a while, patients with schizophrenia begin to ‘feel’ the rubber hand and disown their own hand. They also experience their real hand as closer to the rubber hand.” said Sohee Park, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair of Psychology and Psychiatry, who conducted the study with doctoral candidate Katharine Thakkar and research analysts Heathman Nichols and Lindsey McIntosh.

“Healthy people get this illusion too, but weakly,” Park continued. “Some don’t get it at all, and there is a wide range of individual differences in how people experience this illusion that is related to a personality trait called schizotypy which is associated with psychosis-proneness.”

Body ownership is one of two aspects of a person’s sense of self awareness. (The other aspect is self-agency, the sense that a person is initiating his or her own actions.) According to the researchers, the finding that schizophrenia patients are more susceptible to the rubber hand illusion suggests that they have a more flexible body representation and weakened sense of self compared to healthy people.

”What’s so interesting about Professor Park’s study is that they have found that the sense of bodily ownership does not diminish among patients with schizophrenia, but it can be extended to other objects more easily,” observed David Gray, Mellon assistant professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt, who is an expert on the philosophy of the mind. He did not participate in the study but is familiar with it. “Much of the literature concerning agency and ownership in schizophrenia focuses on the sense of lost agency over one’s own movements: But, in these cases, the sense of ownership is neither diminished or extended.”

Before they began the procedure, the researchers gave participants a questionnaire to rate their degree of schizotypy: the extent to which they experience perceptual effects related to the illusion. The researchers found that the individuals who rated higher on the scale were more susceptible to the illusion.

The researchers gauged the relative strength of the RHI by asking participants to estimate the position of the index finger of their hidden hand on rulers placed on top of the box that conceals it before and after stimulation. The stronger the effect, the more the subjects’ estimate of the position of their hidden hand shifted in the direction of the rubber hand. Even the estimates of those who did not experience the effect subjectively shifted slightly.

The rubber hand illusion also has a physiological signature. Scientists don’t know why, but the temperature of the hidden hand drops by a few tenths of a degree when a person experiences the illusion. “It’s almost as if the hand is disowned and rejected, no longer part of the self,” Park commented.

The researchers were surprised when one of the patients undergoing the procedure experienced a full out-of-body experience. He reported that he was floating above his own body for about 15 minutes. According to Park, it is extremely rare to observe spontaneous out-of-body experiences in the laboratory. When they invited the patient back for a second session, he once again had an out-of-body experience during the rubber hand procedure, proving that the experience is repeatable.

“Anomalous experiences of the self were considered to be core features of schizophrenia decades ago but in recent years much of the emphasis has been on cognitive functions such as working memory,” said Park.

According to the psychologist, out-of-body experiences and body ownership are associated with a particular area in the brain called the temporoparietal junction. Lesions in this area and stimulation by strong magnetic fields can elicit out-of-body experiences. The new study suggests that disorders in this part of the brain may also contribute to the symptoms of schizophrenia.

The relationship between schizophrenia and body ownership may help explain the results of a German study published in 2008 that found a 12-week exercise program reduced the symptoms and improved the behavior of a small group of patients with chronic schizophrenia when compared to a control group that did not exercise. The study also found that the exercise increased size of the patients’ hippocampus slightly – a smaller-than-normal hippocampus is a well established symptom of schizophrenia.

“Exercise is inexpensive and obviously has a broad range of beneficial effects, so if it can also reduce the severity of schizophrenia it is all to the good,” said Park. These findings suggest that focused physical exercise which involves precise body control, such as yoga and dancing, could be a beneficial form of treatment for this disorder.

The study was partly funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Endowed Chair.

Research Finds Trigger for Charitable Giving

Published on : 01-11-2011 04:14:48     -    0 Views    


Newswise — When it comes to charitable giving, details matter.

A new project by a marketing professor at Washington University in St. Louis finds that when charitable organizations approach potential donors with a more detailed description of the charity, donors give more.

Details are important, says Cynthia Cryder, PhD, assistant professor of marketing at Olin Business School, because they increase the perceived impact of a contribution.

Cryder finds in a new paper, “The Donor is in the Details," that charities can substantially increase a donor's perception of the impact their contribution makes by focusing direct solicitation efforts on how donations help one specific person or address one specific problem. When donors know more, donors tend to give more.

“Talking about details and describing things in a narrow way is important,” Cryder says. “Details aren’t just important because they encourage sympathy or empathy but also because they help donors feel like they are actually making a real difference."

In three experiments, Cryder and co-authors, George Lowenstein, PhD, and Richard Schneines, PhD, both of Carnegie Mellon University, find that increasing details about a charity’s activities increases generosity.

The effect occurred when study participants donated to the same charity described in a detailed versus general way. It also occurred when they donated to an inherently tangible charity versus a more general one.

When a donor knew specific ways that a charity uses funds, Cryder says, it was easier to imagine how a specific contribution would be used and easier to imagine how it would make a difference.

“The broad scope of service many charities are trying to promote does not seem to be the most compelling way to convince donors to give,” Cryder says. “They feel any small contribution to a large-scoped project is at best a drop in the bucket."

While other research on charitable donations has found that emotions like sympathy and compassion are primary drivers of giving, the finding that perception of impact drives increased donations is new.

“In addition to emphasizing details in solicitations, as we studied in this paper, charities should consider decreasing the size of the overall need that is highlighted and sending thank-you letters that detail the impact of past donations to encourage future donations,” Cryder says.

In this particular paper, just describing details seems to make donors feel as if they will have more of an impact, Cryder says. The organizations aren’t actually changing the scope of their projects, they are just focusing on details rather than on the big picture.

“Instead of talking about how a charity like Oxfam — the large, very successful, international charitable organization — is one of the most influential charities in the world, we find it might be more effective to talk also about how they provide clean water to poor people,” Cryder says. "Just providing a single detail like that makes an important difference and it does seem to be that 'perceived impact' drives this result.”

Teaching Automatic Speech Recognition Engines What Humans Already Know: Timing Matters

Published on : 01-11-2011 04:10:16     -    0 Views    


Newswise — Sorting sound into intelligible speech is a seemingly effortless feat. Healthy human ear-brain auditory systems perform it heroically, even in highly confusing soundscapes with a riotous mix of acoustic signals.

And while scientists have successfully constructed automatic speech recognition (ASR) engines to help perform routine speech transactions – coaching you through an automatic payment over the telephone – ASR does have problems. Too often garble prevails. When that happens, pushing “0” to summon a pair of human ears hooked up to a neuroprocessing unit – a brain – seems the only way around a late fee.

Now scientists are turning to that human-brain hookup for help, too. A team from the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and from the University of Oldenburg, Germany, is learning from errors in human speech recognition (HSR) and applying that knowledge to design new signal processing strategies and models for ASR. They will present their study Nov. 1 at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in San Diego, California.

One key finding: ASR does not handle time cues in language as well as HSR does. Improving computer models to optimize the way ASR processes time variation in speech to align it with the human system could have beneficial applications in many human-machine interfaces. These include improved hearing aids, smart homes, and new assistive hearing apps on smart phones.

Explains lead researcher, Bernd T. Meyer, Ph.D.: “Automatic speech recognition has its flaws. In comparison, human speech recognition works a lot better than ASR, so we thought, ‘Why don't we try to learn from the auditory system and integrate those principles into ASR?’”

The aim is to improve ASR so it, like HSR, can render correct messages from a highly variable mix of acoustic signals. The work is an extension of Meyer’s previous research in medical physics with a specialty in mechanisms of hearing. “Since I had been working in a group with much knowledge about hearing, and we know that hearing and speaking are interrelated due to co-evolution, we thought it's a good idea to use the models developed there not only for hearing aids, but also for improving speech recognizers,” he explains.

The team compared ASR to HSR in a series of experiments. The automatic system and the listeners had to identify the consonants and vowels sounds from a noisy database of utterances. These utterances intrinsically varied by rate, style, and vocal effort involved.

Results showed that a speech recognition gap exists between ASR and HSR. According to their data, a standard ASR system reaches human performance levels only when the signal-to-noise-ratio is increased by 15 decibels. In high noise conditions, human listeners achieved 75 percent accuracy while ASR was only slightly above 30 percent.

So if high noise conditions prevail when you happen to be talking to an automated bank teller, you might be courting a late fee – unless you push “0” to summon the HSR unit: a pair of ears, a brain, and a perfunctory wish for a nice day.
The paper 2pSCa2, “Improving automatic speech recognition by learning from human errors,” will be presented Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 1:25 p.m.

Overweight Teens Want to Lose Weight, Go About It the Wrong Way

Published on : 01-11-2011 04:07:02     -    0 Views    

Newswise — Research led by public health doctoral candidate Clare Lenhart has found that while most obese teens in Philadelphia report wanting to lose weight, their actions are more of a hindrance than a help.

In an analysis of findings from the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, Lenhart and colleagues organized data from nearly 44,000 adolescents into different types of health behaviors, such as: recent smoking; amount of weekly physical activity; daily soda consumption; and hours per day playing video games.
While most of the obese teens reported trying to lose weight (about 75 percent), this group was also more likely to report smoking. In addition, females trying to lose weight were more likely to report participating in 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day; however, data showed that these females were also prone to consume soda on a daily basis– regular, not diet. Males who were trying to lose weight were more likely to report having no days of physical activity, and also reported playing more than three hours of video games per day.
"From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want," said Lenhart. "But the behavior they're engaging in is puzzling; it's counterproductive to what they're trying to do."
While the researchers aren't sure whether teens realize this behavior is counterproductive, Lenhart suggests there could be a lack of information on the teens' part. "For example, among the girls who are exercising, they may not realize that one soda could undo that 30-minute walk they just took."
She's encouraged that so many teens appear to be motivated to lose weight, and says that a more intensive line of questioning from health care providers could help.
"If a child is going to their pediatrician, and he asks them if they're losing weight, an appropriate follow up question might be, 'How are you doing that?'" said Lenhart. "It could help guide those teens to more productive weight loss activities."
This research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. Other authors on this study are Dawn Eichen of the Department of Psychology and Judith Gold of the Department of Public Health; and Brian Daly of Drexel University’s Department of Psychology. Funding for this study was provided by a CDC ARREST grant to the School District of Philadelphia.

A Cup of Blueberries a Day May Keep Cancer Away

Published on : 05-09-2011 02:42:23     -    64 Views    


Why are blueberries considered healthful? They're full of antioxidants, flavonoids and other vitamins that help prevent cell damage. "Antioxidants protect cells by stabilizing free radicals and can prevent some of the damage they cause," says Laura Newton M.A.Ed., R.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Free radicals, atoms that contain an odd number of electrons and are highly reactive, can cause cellular damage, one of the factors in the development of cancer; many believe a diet filled with fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk. "Studies suggest that antioxidants may help prevent the free-radical damage associated with cancer," says Newton, a licensed dietician who often works with cancer patients. 

Blueberries also are rich in vitamin C, which helps the immune system and can help the body to absorb iron. “Vitamin C also helps to keep blood vessels firm, offering protection from bruising,” Newton says. 

Blueberry juice and other products may be nutritious but often contain less fiber than the whole fruit, and added sugar or corn syrup may decrease their nutritional value. Consuming fresh, raw blueberries provides the most benefits; the average serving size of raw blueberries is one cup, which contains about 80 calories. 

Blueberry season is in full swing, and now is the perfect time to stock up on this delicious, nutritious fruit from farms located here in Alabama. “They can be frozen, so store some in the freezer to enjoy year round,” says Newton. “To freeze blueberries, put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze them and then transfer to an airtight bag or container and store. Rinse them with water prior to using.” 


Dentists, Pharmacists Raise Awareness of Medication-Induced Dry Mouth

Published on : 11-08-2011 02:33:12     -    63 Views    


Newswise — CHICAGO, August 11, 2011 – Leading dental and pharmacy organizations are teaming up to promote oral health and raise public awareness of dry mouth, a side effect commonly caused by taking prescription and over-the-counter medications. More than 500 medications can contribute to oral dryness, including antihistamines (for allergy or asthma), antihypertensive medications (for blood pressure), decongestants, pain medications, diuretics and antidepressants. In its most severe form, dry mouth can lead to extensive tooth decay, mouth sores and oral infections, particularly among the elderly.

Nearly half of all Americans regularly take at least one prescription medication daily, including many that produce dry mouth, and more than 90 percent of adults over age 65 do the same. Because older adults frequently use one or more of these medications, they are considered at significantly higher risk of experiencing dry mouth.

The American Dental Association (ADA), Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) are collaborating to expand awareness of the impact of medications on dry mouth, a condition known to health professionals as xerostomia.

With regular saliva production, your teeth are constantly bathed in a mineral-rich solution that helps keep your teeth strong and resistant to decay. While saliva is essential for maintaining oral health and quality of life, at least 25 million Americans have inadequate salivary flow or composition, and lack the cleansing and protective functions provided by this important fluid.

“Each day, a healthy adult normally produces around one-and-a-half liters of saliva, making it easier to talk, swallow, taste, digest food and perform other important functions that often go unnoticed,” notes Dr. Fares Elias, president, Academy of General Dentistry. “Those not producing adequate saliva may experience some common symptoms of dry mouth.”

Signs and symptoms

At some point, most people will experience the short-term sensation of oral dryness because of nervousness, stress or just being upset. This is normal and does not have any long-term consequences. But chronic cases of dry mouth persist for longer periods of time. Common symptoms include trouble eating, speaking and chewing, burning sensations, or a frequent need to sip water while eating.

“Dry mouth becomes a problem when symptoms occur all or most of the time and can cause serious problems for your oral health,” explains Dr. Matthew Messina, ADA consumer advisor. “Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection.”

According to Dr. Messina, who practices general dentistry in the Cleveland area, without the cleansing and shielding effects of adequate saliva flow, tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease become much more common. “Constant dryness and the lack of protection provided by saliva may contribute to bad breath. Dry mouth can make full dentures become less comfortable to wear because there is no thin film of saliva to help them adhere properly to oral tissues,” he adds. “Insufficient saliva can also result in painful denture sores, dry and cracked lips, and increased risks of oral infection.”

Common causes

Once considered an inevitable part of aging, dry mouth is now commonly associated with certain medications and autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome. Both of these can reduce salivary production or alter its composition, but experts agree that the primary cause of dry mouth is the use of medications.

Radiation treatment for head and neck cancer is also an important cause of severe dry mouth. The treatment can produce significant damage to the salivary glands, resulting in diminished saliva production and extreme dry mouth in many cases.

“Saliva plays an important role in maintaining oral health,” says Dr. Donald Clem, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “With decreased saliva flow, we can see an increase in plaque accumulation and the incidence and severity of periodontal diseases.”

How to relieve dry mouth

Individuals with dry mouth should have regular dental checkups for evaluation and treatment. “Be sure to carry an up-to-date medication list at all times, and tell your dentist what medications you are taking and other information about your health at each appointment," advises Mr. Thomas Menighan, executive vice president and Chief Executive Officer, American Pharmacists Association. "In some cases, a different medication can be provided or your dosage modified to alleviate dry mouth symptoms. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions regarding your medication.”

Increasing fluid intake, chewing sugarless gum, taking frequent sips of water or sucking on ice chips can also help relieve dry mouth symptoms. Avoiding tobacco and intake of caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages may also help those with the condition. Your dentist may recommend using saliva substitutes or oral moisturizers to keep your mouth wet. Your local pharmacist is also a helpful source for information on products to help you manage dry mouth.

Blood Tests for Active TB Not Accurate or Cost-Effective

Published on : 11-08-2011 02:26:25     -    44 Views    


Use of serological tests in India resulted in more DALYs (years of healthy life lost to premature death and illness), more secondary infections, and more false-positive diagnoses of TB, compared to the use of microscopic sputum smear analysis or culture. The findings, published in the August 9, 2011 edition of PLoS Medicine, recently led the World Health Organization to recommend against the use of commercial serology tests in the diagnosis of active TB.
"Microscopic analysis of sputum for TB is cheap and widely available, but misses half of all TB cases," said David Dowdy, MD PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "TB culture, the current gold standard, requires training and equipment not available in most resource-limited settings. Serological tests are simpler and faster than culture, and are also commercially available in India, so they are an attractive option in theory. However, we found that they are not accurate enough to be useful—after accounting for missed and false-positive TB diagnoses, serological tests cost more and delivered less than either microscopy or culture. Quite simply, serological tests should not be used to diagnose active TB."
For the study, Dowdy and his colleagues constructed a mathematical model to analyze 1.5 million patients with suspected active TB in India—about 15% of India’s annual TB burden. Their analysis concluded that use of serology would result in an estimated 14,000 more TB diagnoses than microscopy, but would also incorrectly diagnose 121,000 more patients without active TB (false-positives). Serology use would also generate 102,000 more DALYs and 32,000 more secondary TB cases compared to microscopy. The estimated total cost of serologic testing (including treatment of newly diagnosed cases) was approximately four times that of microscopy, at $47.5 million versus $11.9 million.
“Unfortunately, we still do not have an accurate point-of-care test for TB, as we have for infections like HIV or malaria. The WHO policy strongly encourages future research to develop novel or improved serological tests,” said the study’s senior author, Madhukar Pai, MD, PhD, associate professor at McGill University and the Respiratory, Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit at the Montreal Chest Institute and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
Funding for the research was provided by the Stop TB Partnership’s New Diagnostics Working Group, via the subgroup on Evidence Synthesis, and support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

A groundbreaking new study published in the journal, Health Affairs, suggests that increases in

Published on : 09-08-2011 01:27:22     -    1 Views    

After accounting for differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, medical resources and other factors, communities that made the largest investments in public health spending experienced the most significant reductions in mortality from leading preventable causes of death.

"Although a definitive causal link between spending and mortality cannot be drawn, the study does provide compelling evidence that communities must pay attention to more than local medical resources and interventions, but also to the resources invested in local public health activities to truly make a difference in the health of their people," Mays said.

Public health spending varies widely around the country. For example, per capita state public health spending ranged from a low of less than $4 in Nevada to a high of more than $171 in Hawaii. Local public health spending varied even more significantly – ranging from less than $1 per capita to more than $200 per capita, with the median spent around $36 per person.

The study provides a foundation for further research, particularly in light of the ACA investment of a projected $15 billion in new spending over 10 years in federal public health spending and the continued reductions in state and local government spending for public health, Mays said.

Technology News

New Web Search Technology to Aid Researchers Using Oral Histories

New web-based technology developed at University of Kentucky Libraries allows researchers to pinpoint specific terms within recorded oral history inte...

Published on : 02-11-2011 05:09:04     -    60 Views    -    Comments

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