Health & Wellbeing

Equitable societies are better for everyone

March 3, 2009 In rich societies, poorer people have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. Likewise, large inequalities of income are often regarded as divisive and corrosive. Now, in a groundbreaking book, UK-based researchers go beyond either of these ideas to demonstrate that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them — the well-off as well as the poor. The authors forcefully demonstrate that nearly every modern social and environmental problem — ill-health, lack of community, life, violence, drugs, obesity, mental illness, long working hours, big prison populations — is more likely to occur in a less equal society, and adversely affects all of those within it.Read More

Study confirms effects of early environment in brains of suicide victims

McGill University and Douglas Institute scientists have discovered that childhood trauma can actually alter your DNA and shape the way your genes work. This confirms in humans earlier findings in rats, that maternal care plays a significant role in influencing the genes that control our stress response. Using a sample of 36 brains; 12 suicide victims who were abused; 12 suicide victims who were not abused and 12 controls, the researchers discovered different epigenetic markings in the brains of the abused group. These markings influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, a stress-response which increases the risk of suicide.Read More

Drug Testing & Analysis Podcast - a viable test for hGH?

As the incidence of drugs escalates in 21st century living, their detection and analysis have become increasingly important. Sport, the workplace, crime investigation, homeland security, the pharmaceutical industry and the environment are just some of the high profile arenas in which analytical testing has provided an important investigative tool for uncovering the presence of extraneous substances. Now there's a new scientific magazine entitled Drug Testing and Analysis which will explore the analytical techniques used to determine controlled and potentially controversial compounds. As a promotion for the first issue, publishers Wiley-Blackwell have made public a podcast of an interview with Professor Richard Holt of the University of Southampton on the current state of human Growth Hormone use, abuse and detection in sports.Read More

Memory surgery: common drug takes the panic out of traumatic memories

Memory-induced panic attacks can be absolutely crippling for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - the suffocating, gripping fear associated with traumatic memories can destroy victims' careers, relationships and the normal functioning of their lives. But a team of Dutch clinical psychologists are developing an almost magical cure, using a single dose of a common and fairly harmless beta-blocking drug that seems to be able to separate the panic emotion from the factual elements of the memory - leaving patients with an apparently lasting ability to recall and talk about the traumatic incident without the usual devastating rush of fear. Read More

The most insidious invention in history?

Further irrefutable proof that the slot machine is one of the most insidious inventions in history came from the 800 year old University of Cambridge this week. Researchers used fMRI brain-imaging to find that near misses (two identical fruits on the pay line and another just above or below) activate the same reward pathways in a gambler's brain as a win. What's more, slot machine manufacturers seem aware of this, as machines are programmed to deliver near misses almost one in three, enticing losers to keep gambling. Hardly seems fair does it?Read More

Major UK study examines the long-term effects of Ecstasy use

Ecstasy use is widespread across the globe, and has been for more than 20 years now. While there are occasional deaths and more frequent hospitalizations related to Ecstasy use, some argue that as illicit drugs go, it has far fewer negative effects than the real bad boys - heroin, crack, ice - so why is it treated by lawmakers as a class A or schedule 1 drug with penalties attached to it as severe as with heroin? The counter-argument is that Ecstasy's long term effects on the brain aren't well understood - but a recent UK review by a government advisory council has sifted through more than 20 years' worth of evidence to come to the conclusion that yes, Ecstasy can be shown to cause cognitive impairment, memory loss and depression. But the effects are so slight that users still fall well within the normal ranges. The report concludes with a recommendation that Ecstasy be re-classified down to the level of class B drugs like marijuana.Read More


Rebuilding the face: medicine meets engineering at the beginning of an industrial revolution

February 10, 2009 Mass-production technology has revolutionized so much of modern life that we take it for granted - but early iterations of all technologies were hand-built, relying on the skills and intuition of master craftsmen for the effectiveness of each end product. It might surprise you to learn that in the field of facial reconstructive surgery, the vast majority of work is still being done in a pre-industrial revolution fashion - and results for patients who present with horribly disfiguring facial tumors or bone injuries are as varied and inconsistent as the human hands that do the work. Dr. Ninian Peckitt, originally from the UK, has pioneered a truly revolutionary "Engineering Assisted Surgery" approach that uses advanced CT-to-CAD modeling, rapid stereolithographic prototyping, pinpoint CAD design, electron beam melting (EBM) mass-production and error-eliminating surgical procedures. The results are absolutely stunning. Patients that would normally require traumatic 20-hour operations involving complicated, imprecise and ugly bone grafts are being fitted with incredibly precise, long-lasting titanium facial inserts so effective that once surgical scars fade you'd never know they had a facial injury. Surgery is simple and can often be completed in an hour or two using techniques that eliminate human errors - and the entire procedure comes in at a fraction of the price. Peckitt's work is amazing - but if powerful lobbies in the medical fraternity have their way, it may cost him his career. Read More

Garmin FR60 Fitness Watch

GPS specialist Garmin has announced a new fitness watch that offers new levels of functionality and convenience using wireless connectivity at the 2009 ISPO Winter trade show in Munich. While you exercise, the easy-to-use FR60 accurately tracks your time, calories burned, heart rate and other data from wirelessly linked fitness equipment, then once you’re within range of your computer, the information is wirelessly transferred and stored for later analysis.Read More

UV tooth bleaching ineffective and dangerous

Tooth bleaching is a popular way of removing stains caused by smoking, red wine and coffee, and in recent times UV light-enhanced bleaching has been promoted heavily. A new report claims the use of UV is not only a con, but is dangerous to your eyes and skin. The Nordic Institute of Dental Materials says the treatment offers no benefit over bleaching without UV, and damages skin and eyes up to four times as much as sunbathing for an entire afternoon. The damning report also found that bleaching damages teeth.Read More

Miniscule motor swims through the bloodstream

Researchers from Monash University in Australia are working on microbot motors designed to swim through the human bloodstream. Dubbed the "Proteus" after the miniature submarine that traveled through the body in the 1966 sci-fi flick, Fantastic Voyage, the tiny piezoelectric motor is just 250 micrometers or a quarter of a millimetre wide - that's around 2.5 times the width of a human hair. Read More


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