Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Device Diagnoses Arthritis at the Speed of Dry Cleaning: 2 Hours

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Do You Have

Your Ticket?

All right, you knew it was coming. The pain has been getting worse each day, especially when you hobble up the stairs. Fortunately, your left knee seems pretty good and, really, if it weren't for the throbbing in your head, you could probably live with the discomfort in your right knee. All the hopping and bouncing does have its aerobic benefits after all. But, the headaches and, well...

Look, you love your husband. You just can't stand the constant wheedling any longer. Pain is a piece of cake, but this is diabolical. Does he have no other interests in life? Must he be your constant companion, lurking about each corner, barking and chirping as he scampers about picking up this and that, maliciously fawning over you with "Here, let me" and "Oh, honey, it's too much for you" or some such other drivel? You used to be a strong woman, but now... And, where did these headaches come from? You never used to... "Honey, here, let me." Ah, yes - it all makes sense now.

Watching your husband in the rearview mirror, the radio blaring, you feel a strange sense of peace settle about your weary soul as you roar down the street. You're tempted to crack a smile, but think better of it, and redouble your focus. You know what you have to do. You screech to a halt, toss open the door and march inside the Dry Cleaning in a Dash. You toss the bundle in the counter and announce, "OK, I want the works. Double starch on the shirts, mend the hem on the skirt and give me the FAP - I'll be back in 2 hours."

FAP? Ah, that would be a Full Arthritis Panel, capable of determining the root cause of your pain in the knee. At a dry cleaners? Well, that may be a stretch, but the two-hour-special may be the diagnostic wave of the future.

Scientists in Germany have developed a diagnostic device capable of delivering high-speed arthritis diagnoses. This is a major breakthrough and offers real benefits to both doctors and patients. Current diagnostic tests to determine underlying causes of arthritis may take several weeks and, if initial tests come back negative, additional testing adds to the ordeal. What's a doctor to do? Treat, of course. But, when the diagnosis is unclear, many treatments are ineffective at best and harmful at worst.

Enter the Fraunhofer Mobile Laboratory (FML).

Fraunhofer Institute, in cooperation with others, is testing a compact, portable, high-speed diagnostic device that will bring long diagnostic waits to a screaming halt. The breadbox-sized device contains a biochip, a small plastic wafer holding a hundred antigen dots and a set of fluid distributor mechanisms. The antigen dots, each about the size of a un-popped popcorn kernel, represent the likely suspects in the underlying arthritic process, including common pathogens and viruses. A positive reaction to an antigen dot indicates the blood sample contains a reactive antibody, previously produced in an attempt to fight off the offending antigen. Case closed, diagnosis determined - let the, appropriate and accurate, treatment begin.

All right, it seems like the right time - you not only smile, you chuckle a bit as you wheel back into the drive. Ah, it's been a most fruitful couple hours. The dry cleaning looks great, the line at the pharmacy wasn't half bad and, if all goes according to plan, the pain in your knee should be gone in a day or two. If only, you muse, you could say the same about that other persistent pain...

To read more about this developing technology, see this from ScienceDaily.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Olive Oil Fights Cancer, Saves World

tidbits that tantalize

Ms. Oyl, Founder-

Order of The Olive

circa 1936

It's a proud day for Dr. Paulson and his colleagues at FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The agonizing years of laboring in total obscurity are beginning to payoff. It started simply enough, with the cholesterol lowering benefits of olive oil first ushering the cause out of the shadows. Then, in a dizzying decade of dominion, the trans fat ban raced across the globe, the very word margarine was stricken from the history texts and the humble olive, sans branches, became the official global symbol of modern mankind.

The ubiquitous olives are indeed the oil that lubricates the cogs of the nations' machinery. Lowering bad cholesterol, raising the good, fighting multiple forms of cancer... Is there no problem beyond the reach of the magical oil?

These are heady days, to be sure. As Dr. Paulson stands on the dais, reveling in the festivities of the Feast of Olives, his only disappointment is the failure by some to understand. Recent news reports charging he and his colleagues wield too much power are misplaced. They fail to comprehend the great service his group provides to all mankind and, in the most cutting of insults, refer to FASEB as an ill-conceived dictatorship. Dr. Paulson, though saddened, is resolute. While he understands the concerns over the concentration of power, he prefers to think of FASEB as a beneficent oligarchy - perhaps, even an olivegarchy. Hmm...

In the real world, Dr. Paulson and his cohorts studied the impact of olive oil on a group of healthy men between the ages of twenty and sixty. For a two-week period one group of men consumed a quarter cup of olive oil each day. This group showed a reduction of a substance, 8oxodG, that indicates oxidative damage to cells. The reduction of oxidative damage foretells a lower incidence of eventual cancers.

While previous studies have pointed to the antioxidant effects of the olive's phenol compounds, this study found no such link. Researchers used three different olive oils, with varying levels of phenols, and found no difference in the beneficial reduction of oxidative damage. The scientists theorize the monounsaturated fats are the primary compounds responsible for the healthy effect.

The group points to the results as a confirmation of the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil. They believe their findings shed light on the lower incidence of breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers among inhabitants of Mediterranean countries than among natives of Northern European countries.

Ah, quiet now - the official presentation ceremony is about to begin. Dr. Paulson straightens his tie, takes a calming breath. Though he's anticipated this day for months, he finds himself deeply moved. Such humble beginnings, and now this. Today, he will be sworn in as the Overseer of the Order of the Olive - he is most proud...

To read more about the beneficial health effects of olive oil, see this from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Do Slouchers Have Stronger Backs?

news you may not know

Are You Sure

This Is Right?

Dateline 2017 - Colossus Corporate Headquarters - New York, New York

Wesley Widget, president and CEO of Colossus for the past forty-seven years, scowls as he reads the monthly risk management assessment. "This simply can't be," he mutters under his breath. "Injuries up 17% - absenteeism up 24% - medical costs up..." He frantically flips through pages seeking answers. "Aha!"

"Cranston, I need to see you in my office - now!"

He slams the phone receiver down but, seeing his "Serenity Now" mantra plaque on the corner of his desk, he closes his eyes and breaths deeply, rhythmically. Composed, he picks up the receiver and gently replaces it. "Ah - that's better."

The door opens and, as Cranston enters, serenity takes its leave.

"Cranston, have you seen this? What in the blazes happened here? Do you know how much we've spent on this project?"

Widget fidgets as Cranston crumbles.

"Sir," says Cranston in a weak voice, "it's just too much - the mothers I mean. They're just too..."

"The mothers!" Widget shouts. "What in the world do mothers have to do with ANY of this?"

"Well, sir," continues the shaken Cranston, "it doesn't appear to matter how often we remind the workers to slouch, how many Slouch for Safety posters we plaster about or how big we make the Sloucher of the Month award. Like I said, sir, it's the mothers - all the years of saying, "Jimmy, sit up straight" and "Nobody likes a sloucher" - it's just too much for us to overcome."

Knowing he's met his match, Widget fidgets no more. He slumps back in his chair, reaches out a trembling hand, and gently sends his Serenity Now plaque tumbling over the edge of his desk and into the circular file. Swiveling about, he stares blankly across the city's skyline and, a tear in his eye, whispers, "The mothers."

Sit up straight?

Researchers recently discovered the age-old advice to sit up straight is misplaced. As a matter of fact, not only does sitting up straight appear to have no beneficial impact, it actually may be the root cause of many of today's back problems.

Doctors in Scotland studied the impact of three different sitting positions using "positional" magnetic resonance imaging, a new type of MRI that allows patients to move while being tested: the 90-degree position, straight back and feet on the floor, a "hunch" position, typical of hunching over a desk or stack of papers and a "slouch" position, semi-reclining at a 135-degree angle with the feet on the floor, as if vegging in front of the television.

The results speak well for the slackers among us. The traditional position, straight back with feet on the floor, put the most strain on the back. The "hunch" position fared better, but the clear winner was the "slouch" position. It caused the least degree of spinal misalignment and, as a result, produced the least amount of strain on the spine.

Asked if the office of the future will be redesigned to encourage slouchers, the retired Wesley Widget shouted, "It's the mothers I tell you - the mothers!" He was then whisked away by a group of small men in white coats.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Smoker's Damaged Arteries Heal After Last Puff

resources to rely on

I Love

The Open Air...

The Red Maples are more glorious than you've seen them in years, or... Maybe, confined to your bed, tethered to that darn oxygen machine, it's just a whimsical trick of your eyes as you study them from afar. No matter. Trick or true beauty, you relish this day and let your mind wander back to better times - times filled with energy and strength, walks in the woods, the spring in your step catapulting you skyward...

You remember the little spot, back by the creek, where you and Sarah used to sit and watch the world according to wildlife pass by without a care. Red Headed Woodpeckers, beaver, the occasional fox. It was splendid. On cool fall days you'd tote along a thermos filled with fresh coffee. Sarah always laughed, saying you looked like a fog machine, what with the hot coffee, cold air and ever-present cigarette dangling from your lips.

Ah, you'd love to have a smoke right now...

Is the future this bleak? It doesn't have to be - especially if you're young and... you quit.

A recent study indicates the damaged arteries of young smokers heal quickly after they take their last puff. This is fabulous news and provides even more incentive for young smokers to ante up and nix the nicotine.

Blood flow in the human body is regulated by the alternating contraction and relaxation of the lining of the arteries, known as the endothelium. Smoking causes this lining to harden, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The new study, conducted by scientists in Japan, studied men in their twenties and thirties who had smoked a pack a day for at least five years. The subjects agreed to stop smoking for at least six months.

PET scans (positron emission tomography) revealed subjects exhibited abnormal arterial function at the beginning of the study. However, within a single month after quitting, the abnormal coronary function returned to normal. One month - normal... The results remained the same at six months, with the previously damaged arteries functioning normally. This is very good news.

What's it going to be? Well... The view from the bed, even with the whining of the oxygen machine, is spectacular. Or - you can hike on out to your favorite spot, start a little campfire and pour yourself that hot cup of shade-grown, fair-trade, $14.50 per pound Peruvian Pangoa and settle back. Now, pull out that twenty-pack and light it up - over the hot embers of the campfire. Watch as the tobacco incinerates, the smoke swirls and wafts into the air and disappears, leaving nothing but - cool, fresh air.

Now, sit back and take a look around. Get used to it. It looks like you're going to be around to enjoy it for a long, long time.

To explore resources to help you quit smoking, see

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Does Cause Noise Dyslexia? …Oops

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Can You Add A

Tuba And Drums?

Confident your latest research places you at the forefront of academia, you waltz into the campus library at a fervid pace more befitting an impassioned tango. You just can't help yourself. The final piece fell into place late last night and you've spent an agonizing seven hours waiting for the doors to open.

You make a beeline for the stacks, round the corner and... yes, there he is! Kinda quiet, on the nervous side, semi-agitated most of the time, always shushing people, has a horrible time concentrating on his reading - He's perfect...

You set down a case on the table beside him, slap his hand as he tries to shove the case off the edge and withdraw an old, but fully functional, brass trumpet. With his exasperated shushes now echoing throughout the floor you begin to play a raucous, and wholly off-key, rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In. Then, in the blink of an eye, he's reading...

No more shushes, no more random spray of spittle. Just calm, quite reflection and the occasional tap of the toe in time to those marching saints.

Is it possible both the cause and the cure to dyslexia is noise? LOTS of noise? Recent research, contradicting thirty years of precedence on the underlying mechanisms of dyslexia, says exactly that. Current theory holds dyslexia is a neural deficit in processing the fast sounds and visual components of language. Known as the "magnocellular hypothesis," it has served as the foundational explanation of dyslexia since seminal experiments were conducted in the 1970s.

The new theory...

...developed through a series of recent studies, contends dyslexic children have diminished abilities to filter out unwanted input. The children, in fact, have no neural processing deficits but a simple inability to concentrate amidst auditory and visual distractions. Researchers tested subjects on tasks requiring both slow and fast processing of visual patterns. They found dyslexic children performed both slow and fast tasks normally in a quiet environment. But, when they increased the noise level, their performance rapidly deteriorated on both scales.

What's the solution? Ah - that would be the noise factor. Scientists hypothesize training dyslexic children in noisy environments will help strengthen their faulty filters, allowing them to focus on the relevant input. Children with normalized input will develop appropriate mental language categories and stronger letter and word sound recognition skills.

What of Library Science?

Yes, it may be your new calling indeed. A traipsing trumpeter - a troubadour of truth. Bravely marching into the quiet sanctuaries of silence and calling forth the dismal dyslexics whose only desire is to fill their minds with words of wonder - and, possibly, the occasional vision of those marching saints...

To read more about the studies, see this from ScienceDaily.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Children's Hospitals Serving up Big Macs and Fries

tidbits that tantalize

Welcome To


Children's Generic Hospital - 2AM

A young girl's weary mother watches as her daughter tosses and turns, unable to find a position that relieves her pain and allows her to sleep. She checks her watch, wonders where the on-call resident is, what's taking so long...

Finally, a bedraggled young physician steps into the room and greets her. He moves quickly to the bed and opens a large white sack. "Sorry about the delay. It seems everyone got the munchies all at the same time. But, this should do the trick." He clears the bedside table of miscellaneous medical nuisances and plops down a couple of Big Macs, Super Size Fries and a chocolate milkshake. The young girl sits up, smiles and dives in to the Big Mac. The mother puts a thankful hand on the doctor's shoulder, a hint of a tear in her eyes. "Thank you, doctor. She looks better already."

Is this the future of medicine? Well, no - unfortunately, this is the present.

A 2002-03 survey found that 30% of the 200 pediatric programs queried had fast-food restaurants within their hospitals. It would seem to be a less than healthy association, in light of the estimated 17% obesity rate among the nation's children. But, possibly even more significant, is the message the association sends to parents and their children about the inclusion of fast food in diets on a continuing basis.

As a part of the survey, researchers asked parents at several facilities about their perceptions of fast food. The results suggest that healthy-by-association appears to know few limitations. Parents whose children were treated at hospitals with a fast-food restaurant were twice as likely to rate McDonald's food as healthy than parents whose children were treated at facilities without Big Macs on the menu. Hmm... Maybe you really do deserve a break today.

Word has leaked of a pilot program being studied under tight security at a children's hospital in New York. Hospital beds are being equipped with cutting edge nurse call systems that will respond to requests with the comforting, "Welcome to McDonalds, how may I help you?" It is believed the familiar greeting eases tension for young patients while also stimulating the digestive enzymes necessary for absorption of nutrients. Should the call be medically related the McDonalds staff will alert their team manager.

To learn more about the impact of obesity on children, see this from KidsHealth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ads Targeting Kids Reek Havoc

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I Think I'll Go


It's confusing to say the least. You sat your teenage daughter down just last month - well, maybe it was two or three months ago - but, you definitely sat her down! And, to your credit, you found the perfect balance between your crazed-mom-warns-of-impending-doom and lets-be-buddies-and-chat-over-chai competing personas. You were direct, but not demanding. Friendly, but not frivolous. Intense, but not insensitive. In a stunning display of clarity, you distilled your parental directive down to its essence: "Just don't do it."

So, why is she not only doing it, but this, that and the other as well?

It would appear you're outgunned.

Advertisers are not so loathe to be demanding, insensitive and frivolous - as long as there are dollars involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in the December issue of Pediatrics, issued a policy statement on advertising directed at children. Their findings are stunning - and sobering. Consider:

-The average young person views over 3,000 ads per day on television, the Internet, billboards and in magazines.

-Children view 40,000 ads per year on television alone.

-Advertising is a $250 billion/year industry with over 900,000 brand names to promote.

-Tobacco producers spend $30 million dollars/day ($11.2 billion/year) promoting the puff.

-Alcohol manufacturers spend $5.7 billion/year encouraging individuals to imbibe.

-Food and restaurant interests spend $4.5 billion/year challenging us to chow down.

-Sex is the ubiquitous sizzle that packages the palpitations of propaganda.

The academy points to the billions of dollars being spent to influence children as, well... influencing children. Unfortunately, according to the academy, it's influencing children to become obese through eating fatty foods, become abusers of cigarettes and alcohol, and to consider sex at an early age to be the norm. On the flip side, though companies are becoming increasingly sensitive to criticism, the dollars spent promoting healthy foods and lifestyle choices are paltry at best.

What's a mother to do?

Try this. First, wipe away the tears from your eyes. It's a sign of weakness you can't afford in a battle with such high stakes. Now, march into your daughter's room and "sit her down." Grab her, gently, by the shoulders, look directly into her eyes and say, "Let's talk." Ah, yes... the weapon of womanhood. The one force against which advertisers have no power: the sound of a mother's voice. As long as you and your daughter are engaged in conversation, the advertisers will be left simply talking to themselves - a fate, it would seem, they most certainly deserve.

You may read the entire report from the academy at Pediatrics.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Does Pulling Teeth Erase Memory?

news you may not know


Not The Teeth!

"Did you remember to brush?"

If this question causes you to tilt your head to one side, bite your lower lip, narrow your eyes, scrunch your forehead and, finally, answer with a loud sigh and an unknowing shrug, the situation is obvious: you have no teeth to brush.

...It may be true.

Scientists in Sweden have shown a connection between the loss of teeth and the loss of memory. Japanese researchers had previously shown this connection in mice and monkeys. In those experiments, mice first learned to find food within a complex labyrinth. Once their teeth were extracted they no longer were able to find their way through the maze. (Of course, scientists admit they have no means of testing whether the toothless mice simply decided, "What's the point?")

The Swedish scientists expanded the research and conducted the first large scale tests involving humans. The study, which began in 1988, followed nearly 2,000 individuals between the ages of 35 and 90. The results indicate that people with a full set of natural teeth have better memories than those who had lost their teeth and were using dentures.

The manner of loss also appears to be significant, with tooth extraction being most detrimental to memory. Cranial nerves directly connect each tooth to the brain. So, when a tooth is extracted it also pulls out the connecting nerve - ouch! Could this be the cause of the memory loss? A little bit of memory yanked out, rinsed away with a hint of mint at the dentist's office? It's possible.

Researchers have yet to determine the exact reason for the correlation between tooth loss and loss of memory. It is known that mastication, the simple act of chewing one's food, does more than prepare the food for swallowing and digestion. The act also serves as a form of oral aerobics, causing oxygen-rich blood to flow to the head and brain. It's also known that people chew with greater vigor when they have their own teeth.

What's the bottom line? Well, for one, be careful when your dentist debates whether to pull your wisdom tooth or put on a crown. Look her square in the eyes and say, "That one? Wow - that's connected to my third grade summer vacation... my first real crush. " Then, a dreamy look crossing your eyes, sit back and sigh, "I think I'll go with the crown."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Does Winter Make You S.A.D.?

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Wake Me At

Half-Past May...

With the lazy days of summer echoing about the caverns of your well-tanned brain, you cast a cautious eye to the far shore. Nothing big, really. Just a small cloud amidst an otherwise gorgeous late-summer sky. Still... You've seen it too many times before. The small cloud grows and darkens, then races across the sky, gathering friends from all quarters and, before you can tie a proper square knot, fall has arrived. You drop the rope into the lake and your skiff wanders away with the waves - somehow, you just don't care anymore...

If you find the approach of fall sends shivers down your psyche you may suffer from SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a form of major depression that blows in with the winds of autumn and washes away with the spring rains. Scientific theories of its cause include the lack of sunlight during winter months, a disruption in the body's circadian rhythms and even an ancestral trait that causes the body to enter a form of hibernation.

How do you know if your sadness is the result of SAD and not just a passing low spot? The American Psychiatric Association has developed a set of standards by which SAD may be diagnosed. Among the symptoms to look for are these:


-Loss of interest in most previously enjoyed activities


-Increased appetite, especially for high-carbohydrate foods

-Weight gain

-Feelings of worthlessness

-Diminished ability to concentrate

Most significantly, the symptoms are seasonal. The onset of symptoms is both routine and predictable, as is the return to your normal state of wellbeing during the summer. If the symptoms persist throughout the year it is unlikely to be Seasonal Affective Disorder. A final clue - if you're a woman the chances of it being SAD are significantly higher. Women, for reasons not yet understood, are four times more likely to be affected by SAD then are men.

The most common treatment uses specially designed light boxes that emit high levels of white light. Fluorescent light, filtered to remove harmful ultraviolet rays, is delivered at an illumination of approximately 10,000 lux. For reference, a brightly lit office delivers about 400 lux, the lighting in a typical television studio 1,000 lux and sunlight between 32,000 and 100,000 lux, depending upon clouds. Other traditional treatments include medication and psychotherapy. Many have also benefited from spending more time outdoors, regular exercise and vacations to warmer locales.

Ah, vacations...

Your mind wanders back to those breezy days lolling about, gently drifting from here to wherever-the-tide-may-take-you. Possibly even, you imagine, along the same route your previously released skiff is currently traversing...

To read more about SAD, see this from Mayo Clinic.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to Treat Skin Damaged by Radiation? Try Green Tea.

news you may not know

Are You Sure

This Is Green Tea?

The news that green tea extracts speed the healing of radiation damaged skin sent shockwaves through the research community. Many scientists, already struggling to fund their projects in this highly competitive arena, feel this is yet another step in the "One Tea - One Treatment" movement gaining dominance in medical research. China, always in the forefront of tea-related research, recently announced that 90% of its research dollars will fund green tea projects.

Reached at his research facility in New Haven, Dr. Anthony Danner, a biologist, lamented the current state of affairs. "I used to drink green tea, but not anymore. I'm tired of being told that green tea is good for this and good for that. I just don't buy it. So, I decided to protest the green tea movement and - excuse me, I'm not feeling very well. I think I need to rest a bit."

Is green tea truly the cure for all illnesses known-and-yet-to-be? Hmmm...

Researchers recently announced that extracts of green tea reduce the inflammation caused by radiation treatments and help speed the healing process. Extracts of black tea, while less effective than those of green tea, exhibit the same healing properties. The tea treatment reduced the toxic effect of radiation on the skin of patients by up to ten days.

Scientists theorize the tea's high content of polyphenols is responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity. Polyphenols are substances found in plants found to have both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Among the plants high in polyphenols are black currants, peanuts, red and white wine, olive oil, apple skins and, of course, green tea.

The ubiquitous nature of green tea's health benefits may soon become more evident for cancer patients. Following radiation treatment, a specially trained clinician, clad in a slightly clinical-looking kimono, will greet you bearing a small bag filled with green tea. "I've put the brewing instructions in the bag," she'll say. "After you pour the second cup, slather the dregs of the tea on your skin and relax." She'll bow and smile, "It is a special brew of Jade and Jasmine Greens - you will be most healthy."

The full, somewhat technical, report is available at BioMed Central.

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Doppler Stethoscope Turns Heart's Faint Pitter-Patter Into Noisy "Ta-Da-Ta"

news you may not know

You Call That


This is it - you're sure of it. No one has ever made you feel this way before. Well, there was Samantha. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous - flowing blonde locks, legs that were... Come on, get a grip. Samantha was beautiful, but - she was a Golden Retriever and you were five years old. Still...

The harvest moon looms large over the quiet lake, the gentle creaking of the porch swing the only sound. As if on cue, a crisp rush of fall air skitters across your neck and you and your true love draw closer. She rests her head on your chest and, prepared for this very moment, you reach into your jacket for the engagement ring. You steady yourself but, before you can speak, she recoils in disgust. "What ?! Did your heart just say, "Ta-Da-Ta?"" She runs off, calling back through her sobs, "And you said I made your heart go Pitter-Patter!"

...Such is the sad advance of modern stethoscope technology.

Challenged by the U. S. Army to develop a stethoscope capable of functioning in high-noise situations, researchers turned to ultrasound technology. The Army found current acoustic stethoscopes inadequate and the inability to use them when transporting soldiers in helicopters, during the first critical hour following injury, was of particular concern.

Ultrasound technology, utilizing the same Doppler effect as weather radar systems, produces an amplification of sound that makes for a noise-busting stethoscope. Current acoustic stethoscopes are effective up to about 80 decibels, the noise level of a busy city street. Electronic stethoscopes push the boundary only slightly, to perhaps 95 decibels. The new ultrasound stethoscopes are Rolling Stones impervious - capable of functioning at 120 decibels, the noise level experienced at the front row of a rock concert.

There is, apparently, but a single drawback. The traditional Pitter-Patter of the heart has always been perceived as a "Lub-Dub" sound by acoustic stethoscopes. Alas, the ultrasound stethoscopes render the heart's love song as an unfamiliar "Ta-Da-Ta." What to do? Explain to your fiancée that, overwhelmed with love, you taught your heart a new tune - tell her to think of it as, "Our song."

Read more about the new stethoscopes in ScienceDaily.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lower Back a Pain in the Brain?

news you may not know

My Back Hurts

Right About Here...

The doctor, no longer the least bit quizzical about your lower back pain, simply nods noncommittally. Using the innate power of a raised index finger to silence your complaints, he dials quickly and speaks in hushed tones. Mere nanoseconds later the door bursts open and white-clad men wrestle you to the ground, cinch a well-starched straightjacket about your pain racked body and place a gag in your mouth to muffle the cries. The doctor instructs the attendants to escort you to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, explaining, "It's all in his head."

He may be right.

German doctors, reporting at a large radiological meeting in Chicago, believe some lower back pain may be caused by an overloaded pain message delivery system in the brain. They liken it to a highway that becomes congested by too much commuter traffic. As the congestion in the brain increases so does the sensation of pain in the lower back.

Scientists studied the problem using a specialized imaging technique that analyzes the distribution of water within the brain. Subjects with chronic back pain exhibited physiologic changes within the areas of the brain responsible for processing pain. One such area, the thalamocortical tract, is actually known as the "pain highway."

Hmm... If nothing else, possibly it can be converted to a toll road.

To read more about the study, see this report from ScienceDaily.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is Nicotine Patch to Faulty Memory?

news you may not know

Have You Noticed

Any Keys?

You threw out your last pack of smokes five years ago. Then, tired of bumming cigarettes off strangers, you actually quit smoking a mere 17 months later. Ah, freedom! The money spent on cigarettes now supports a healthy lifestyle, including a membership at the new gym across town. But... your days at the gym have become less frequent, you're layering new love handles on top of old and, with the pizza joint just a couple blocks away...

Have you lost your resolve? Been pushed over the edge by the deep dish pepperoni ? Not at all.

You just can't find your car keys...

You tear the house apart in a frantic search. Not that you'd ever let pride get in the way, but you decide you'd rather starve to death at home, clad in a fashionable, though manly, set of workout togs, than break down and ask your wife where the keys are. You just couldn't take it - the sly smile, the beeline to the refrigerator, the quick delve into the crisper and, "Here you go, hon. You dropped them in here last Tuesday." The woman has no pity.

You reach under the bed and, "What's this?" Hmm... A shriveled up old nicotine patch beckons you, recalling days of nicotine filled delight. Already shaken, you give in to temptation, slap the patch on your arm and slump down in despair. Then...

You jump to your feet, rush into the bathroom and throw open the medicine cabinet. "Aha!" There sit your keys, safely tucked behind your all-too-frequent-friend, the Pepto bottle. Somehow, it all makes sense.

So, is the nicotine patch the key to memory deficits? Possibly. In an odd twist, scientists are studying the impact of nicotine on memory in patients with mild cognitive impairment. The interest revolves around the function of what are known as nicotinic receptors. These receptors are located on the surface of neuron cells in the brain, and appear to be significant actors in regulating not only learning and memory, but also anxiety and motor performance.

The research utilizes the same nicotine patches people use to help stop smoking.

All right. You have your plan in place. You feel good about the future. No more embarrassing memory lapses. There's just one small problem: you just can't bring yourself to ask your wife where you put the box of nicotine patches...

To read more about the study, see

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does Money Make The Miser?

tidbits that tantalize

Who Needs Friends?

Do you have money on the brain? Do the approaching holidays fill you with dread over skyrocketing prices for glitzy gadgets? Or, are you all warm and tingly inside over a holiday bonus that makes your heart go, "Ho, Ho, Ho?" Either way, it's likely you'll be less social this season than if the thought of money never crossed your mind.

Money and the ME factor:

Research indicates just thinking about money may turn a person into a reclusive miser, shunning all social contact and, for better or worse, going it alone in this harsh, inhospitable habitat we call home.

Well... yes, that may be a slight overstatement.

Researchers did find, however, the simple act of thinking about money has a significant impact on the behavior of otherwise normal college students. Thinking... not having, earning, spending, touching - just thinking about. The results suggest money tends to foster independence and, while that's generally viewed as a good thing, it also increases social isolation.

To assess independence, volunteers in the Money Group (MG's) read essays that referred to money, or viewed images that related to money. They were then asked to solve a difficult puzzle and told they could ask for help. The MG's hunkered down and spent, on average, 70% more time working alone before asking for assistance than the control group.

The MG's were also less altruistic. Following the introduction of subtle monetary cues, the MG's spent only about half as much time assisting others who needed help, were more likely to choose solitary leisure pursuits and even tended to move their chairs further away from others than the control group.

What does it all mean? The bottom line message appears to be that "Money Matters." Whether money is a positive or negative influence is open for discussion. Independence is an admirable and necessary personal trait. Isolation is loneliness in dismal daily doses.

Do you want to reconnect?

Try this. Invite a few close friends over for a barbeque, gather them around the fire and tell them to empty their wallets. As you feed the flames with the fodder of finance watch the walls of social isolation crumble. Soon you and your friends will be as close as ever. After all, it's hard to cry on each other's shoulders from a distance.

To read more, see this from Science.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ice Cream Cravings and Camel Cones

tidbits that tantalize

Who Knew?

The Sahara Desert

The temperature has soared to 129 degrees and the shade - the shade is but a fleeting figment of your water-starved mind, which now creates bizarre delusions in a desperate attempt to survive. You long for the frozen fields of northern Minnesota and vow to never again leave home in pursuit of the exotic. Then...

In a flash it all comes into focus. There! Just over that next dune. You rush - well, yes, it's more likely you plod or crawl - to the top of the dune and, "Hallelujah!" A sight that soothes your sore eyes and sends shockwaves of hope through your soul. Under a lone palm sits a single camel and a weathered Tuareg nomad. Though you read no Tifinagh (who does?) the sign sitting next to the nomad is famous and needs no translation in this region. Yes, your salvation is nigh - you have indeed stumbled upon a Clyde's Camel Cones...

While unfamiliar to westerners, the milk of the camel is on the move in Africa and Europe. Widely touted for its health benefits, camel's milk is now being offered as a low fat ice cream in flavors ranging from saffron-pistachio to strawberry-vanilla. The camel's milk variety of the frozen dessert packs a mere one-third the fat and offers three times the vitamin C of ice cream made from cow's milk. Some preliminary studies have even indicated the camel's milk ice cream can reduce the blood sugar levels of patients with diabetes.

But, science be damned! You are on a quest of survival.

You slide down the dune, summon your last ounces of energy and make your way to the smiling nomad. In a raspy voice you ask for a double - no, make it a triple - Clyde's Saffron-Pistachio Cone. A slight smile tugs at your parched lips as you - What?!!

Shaken to your soul by the news that Clyde has only strawberry-vanilla today, you trudge on. He said his cousin has the saffron-pistachio today at a Clyde's just a short distance away - "It's only twelve dunes down, then take a left for two more dunes" - Is it worth it? Your mind wanders, recapturing your first taste of the luscious treat, the bite of the saffron, the surprise of the pistachio breaking through. Your pace quickens...

To read more about the developing treat, see this report in

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Doctor's Office: Being Late Means You're Early

tidbits that tantalize


They Call Your Name.

It's 10:15 and you... 10:15! Late for your doctor's appointment, you put it into high gear, pull into the express lane and crash! You run headlong into someone else vying for the same quick fix to poor time management. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail and, long before shouts of "Hey, where'd you learn how to drive" populate the already charged atmosphere, you both pull your carts to the side of the aisle and take a deep breath. After all, the A & P is no place to make enemies. You're likely to bump into, er, see each other again on Thursday when the produce goes on sale.

But, what about the doctor's appointment? Ah, yes...

Neurologists attending a conference in Austin, Texas recently completed a survey detailing the behaviors they found to be most bothersome in patients. The fourth most bothersome behavior listed was patients being Late for Appointments. It appears springtime came early to the "Winter Conference," as irony was certainly in full bloom.

"It's a problem," said Dr. David Proctor, "and, we've already established a committee to find ways to enhance the waiting room experience." A practicing neurologist for the past twenty-seven years, Proctor has witnessed many changes in attitudes toward patients. "The medical profession used to think of patients simply as a means of getting from here to the golf course. That's all changed. We now realize we must provide a more comprehensive patient experience, one that optimizes each needless hour of waiting. We're considering brighter colors, more discarded magazines and chairs with fresh duct tape as a first response."

Asked about advances in office efficiencies that may reduce patient waiting time, Dr. Proctor stated, "Have a seat. I'll be with you shortly."

With apologies to dedicated neurologists, you may view the full report at Medscape.