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Why certain songs bring pleasure

 The chemicals in the brain linked to the pleasure people get from things like sex and drugs also play a role in how people enjoy music, a new, small study from Canada finds.

When people in the study took a drug to block the chemical compounds in the brain that activate the so-called pleasure center, they no longer responded to music, according to the study, published today (Feb. 8) in the journal Scientific Reports .

Pleasure, or reward, is experienced in two phases in the brain, according to the study. The first phase is the anticipatory, or “wanting” phase, which is driven by the neurotransmitter dopamine. The second phase is the consummatory, or “liking” phase, and is driven by opioids in the brain, the researchers wrote.

“This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” senior study author Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology at McGill University in Canada, said in a statement .

Previous studies have shown that opioids play a role in the pleasure people derive from

Salt reduction policies cost-effective

 Government policies designed to reduce how much salt people eat may be cost-effective even without considering the potential healthcare savings, a recent study suggests.

That’s because efforts to curb salt use through policies like public education and industry agreements would not cost that much relative to their potential to reduce mortality and disability, researchers estimate.

“We know that too much salt in the diet causes hundreds of thousands of preventable cardiovascular deaths a year,” said senior study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.

“The trillion dollar questions are how to start to bring salt down, and how much would such an effort cost,” Mozaffarian added by email.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, killing almost one in every three people. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in general, and heart attack and stroke in particular.

Reducing sodium intake can significantly lower blood pressure in adults, in turn helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sodium

California looks to roll back penalties for HIV transmission

 At the height of the AIDS epidemic, California’s state government was unified in its response.

The state legislature decided in 1988 that somebody who donated blood while knowingly HIV-positive could be punished with up to six years in prison. Ten years later, it became a felony to have unprotected sex with the intent of transmitting HIV to a partner.

Now, in 2017, a group of Democratic state lawmakers say times have changed — not that those behaviors shouldn’t be illegal, but that HIV/AIDS shouldn’t be singled out. Under California’s newly introduced Senate Bill 239, intentionally transmitting any infectious or communicable disease, including HIV, would be a misdemeanor, not a felony.

“When you tell people that these laws single out HIV and only apply to people with HIV and not any other infectious disease, they pretty quickly see that it’s irrational and discriminatory,” state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who introduced the bill last week, said in an interview.

The existing laws have had a limited, but nonetheless very real, effect. According to a

Asparagus Make Pee Smell Funny? | Why ?

For all of its health benefits (it has plenty of fiber and protein, and it acts as a diuretic to help beat bloating),asparagus can have one major downfall: It can make your pee smell funky.

So what’s to blame for the cooked-cabbage aroma? “Your body breaks down asparagus during digestion into sulfur-containing chemicals that give your urine a distinctive odor,” explains Roshini Raj, MD, assistant professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center and author of What the Yuck?!.

Not everyone is affected, though: Dr. Raj says that only about half of people complain about, er, report the funny smell.

Scientists have developed two theories to explain why asparagus-tainted urine only affects some people. One posits that only some people metabolize asparagus’ sulfuric compounds in a way that produces the aroma. The other holds that while everyone makes the smell, only some people can actually detect the odor.

In a study published in the journal Chemical Sense, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia sought to determine which explanation was the more likely. They collected urine samples from 38 participants before and after they ate asparagus, then asked whether

Routine Head Hits in Sports May Injure Brain

Young athletes who routinely take hits to the head could experience brain injury — even if they do not suffer a concussion, according to the results of a new preliminary study.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) said their findings could be a red flag for the potentially serious consequences of seemingly mild head injuries among young people whose brains are still developing.

The study was published in the Nov. 12 online edition of the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

“Although this was a very small study, if confirmed it could have broad implications for youth sports,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, associate professor of emergency medicine at URMC with a special interest in sports concussions, said in a university news release. “The challenge is to determine whether a critical number of head hits exists above which this type of brain injury appears, and then to get players and coaches to agree to limit play when an athlete approached that number.”

Researchers followed nine athletes over the course of one year along with six non-athletes and compared their pre- and post-season brains using imaging based on quantitative data.

Drugs Slipped Into Drinks Sending Many to ER

In 2009, nearly 15,000 American women and men ended up in an emergency room after being unwittingly, but intentionally, drugged by someone else, a new federal report reveals.

According to the data, about 60 percent of these cases occurred after someone surreptitiously slipped a drug into the victim’s drink.

Details outlined in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report — touted as the first of its kind — suggest that the problem extends to a broad section of society.

For example, nearly three-quarters of intentional poisonings involved individuals over the age of 21. And though the majority of cases involved females, nearly one in every four victims was male.

“This is not an epidemic, but it is a serious situation,” said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. “That means there are a lot of people who end up in the emergency room because a drug was given to them — stimulants, cocaine, Ecstasy, anxiety drugs — without their knowledge.

“So if you’re in a situation where there’s drinking and drug use going on, you need to keep an eye on things and pay

Down Syndrome Brings Joy

Louise Borke learned that her infant son had Down Syndrome when he was just a few days old.

Her reaction? “Shock and surprise, trepidation and anxiety,” she recalls.

Today, 22 years later, Borke can look back at life with her son, Louis Sciuto, and say, “It’s been fun. It’s had its challenges — I won’t deny that — but it’s been fun. It’s been rewarding and I have no regrets.”

Borke is not alone in her views.

In a series of recently completed surveys, 96 percent of parents expressed no regrets about having a child with Down Syndrome and nearly eight out of 10 said the child had enhanced their lives by teaching them patience, acceptance and flexibility, among other things.

Siblings had similar feelings, with 94 percent feeling “pride” about their sibling and 88 percent saying the sibling had made them a “better person.”

And virtually all people with Down Syndrome who were queried said they were happy with their lives and liked who they are.

“The voices we heard were very satisfied and very positive about their lives despite the fact that they have real challenges,” said Dr.

Drug Shortages Even Worse

So far this year, some 200 drug shortages have occurred compared to 178 in all of 2010, said Valerie Jensen, associate director of the Drug Shortage Program within the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“This is real,” said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. “We’ve been down on this for several years. We have been able to manage around the issue here, but it is a very real issue and a very real problem.”

Many of the scarce drugs are injectables, such as cytarabine and cisplatin, used to treat serious conditions such as cancer. Some are only given in hospitals and are “absolutely critical,” said Jensen, who spoke at a Friday press conference.

More than half (54 percent) of shortages in 2010 were because of quality issues, such as sterility or drug impurities. Some were due to delays or manufacturing capacity problems, with 11 percent caused by discontinuation of a drug and 5 percent resulting from raw material shortages, Jensen said.

“In 2011, we’re seeing the same trend, a very large number of quality product issues leading to shortages,” she added.

Shortages

Best States for Your Brain

Congratulations to the Old Line State: Maryland has emerged as the state with the best brain health in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index. Developed by National Center for Creative Aging, the index ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 21 brain health indicators including diet, physical health, mental health, and social well-being. This is the second time the index has been calculated; the first one appeared in 2009.

In the 2011 report, Maryland edged out the District of Columbia, which slipped to No. 2 from its first-place 2009 ranking. Maryland took top honors because it experienced a decrease in Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths, and because residents consume a high amount of fish, a natural source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is tied to brain and eye health. Residents of Washington, DC, came in second due to its high proportion of active readers – more than any of the 50 states.

The Brain Health Index was created by health experts including Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and creator of the RealAgeconcept, and Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, chairman of the Neurology Institute for

Chemical Found in Foam Cups

The chemical styrene, ubiquitous in foam coffee cups and take-out containers, has been added to the list of chemicals considered possible human carcinogens, according to a new U.S. government report.

On Friday, experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added styrene, along with five other chemicals — captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), certain inhalable glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene and riddelliine — to its list of 240 substances that are “reasonably anticipated” to be carcinogenic.

But before you toss those white plastic take-out containers, keep this in mind: the government report says that by far the greatest exposure to styrene comes from cigarette smoke. In fact, one study cited in the report estimates that exposure from smoking cigarettes was roughly 10 times that from all other sources, including indoor and outdoor air, drinking water, soil and food combined.

Styrene is a widely used chemical. Products that contain it include insulation, fiberglass, plastic pipes, automobile parts, drinking cups and other food containers and carpet backing, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

Studies in the lab, animals and humans — particularly workers in industries such as

Cell Phones May Cause Brain Cancer

After reviewing dozens of studies that explored a possible link between cancer and the ubiquitous hand-held phones, the experts classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and placed them in the same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.

The panel determined that an increased risk for glioma, a malignant form of brain cancer, appears associated with wireless phone use.

Globally, it’s estimated that 5 billion cell phones are in use. “The number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children,” the International Agency for Research on Cancer said in a news release issued Tuesday.

The IARC made the announcement in Lyons, France, based on the work of 31 scientists from 14 countries. It will present its findings to the WHO, which may then issue its recommendations on safe cell phone use.

Experts said children are especially vulnerable.

“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing at a faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger,” Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Exploring the role of blood flow during cardiac

While several circulatory system models are used today in an attempt to better understand blood flow, they still don’t account for the complex rheological behavior of blood. Because blood is a complex suspension of red and white blood cells and platelets suspended within a plasma that contains various proteins, it can exhibit complex flow behavior.

Many of the models currently used ignore these complexities and assume a Newtonian behavior or a constant thickness.

During the 88th Annual Meeting of The Society of Rheology, being held Feb. 12-16, in Tampa, Florida, Jeffrey S. Horner, a doctoral candidate who works in both the Beris and Wagner Research Groups in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, will present a new approach.

“Our research team aims to explore and model these non-Newtonian characteristics of blood flow through careful, well-documented measurements, and by combining expertise within the fields of rheology, computational modeling, and biology,” Horner said.

The goal is to identify key components of blood that directly affect the flow behavior. “We hope that eventually rheology can be used as a diagnostics tool to detect early signs for cardiovascular disease as well as

Preventing hospital-related deaths due to medical errors

Estimates Vary, but Steps Needed to Reduce Deaths from Medical Errors

The authors add their perspective as patient advocates to the ongoing debate over the number of in-hospital deaths due to medical errors. These deaths encompass a wide range of preventable causes, such as bed ulcers, hospital-acquired infections, blood clots (embolism), surgical errors, and misdiagnosis.

In response to the recently reported figures, some in the healthcare industry have pointed out shortcomings of the measures used in the analyses. These critics have cited the difficulty of proving a specific cause of death; others argue that many causes can be traced back to patient’s lifestyle choices and many patients are near death at the time of the incident. But Dr. Kavanagh and coauthors write, “Even if the unintended event only shortens life by a few days, it does not mitigate the severity of the event.”

Dr. Kavanagh added: “As a whole, concerns with data are unfounded since the data tend to underestimate, not overestimate, the number of preventable deaths. In addition, the context of the patient is irrelevant and must be dissociated from medical error.”

Other studies have reported lower estimates. One analysis extrapolated data

The Truth About Radiation Exposure

Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis understandably has people around the world worried about radiation exposure and the potential health risks it may pose. According to the latest reports, radiation from Japan was detected in Southern California late this week, but experts are quick to point out that the levels are far from dangerous. The readings were “about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening,” a diplomat with access to United Nations’ radiation tracking told the Associated Press.

Nor is it unexpected. “Whenever radioactive particles get in the atmosphere, they have the potential to spread around the world,” says James Thrall, MD, president of the American College of Radiology. “But they get diluted as they travel, so they’re unlikely to pose any real health problem.”

In fact, we’re probably exposed to significantly more radiation every day than the miniscule fallout arriving from Japan. Here’s a quick tutorial on radiation to put our collective anxiety in perspective:

What Is Radiation?

Radiation is a form of energy in waves. It exists on a spectrum, with low-frequency radiation (from radio waves and microwaves) on the low end and high-frequency radiation (from gamma rays and x-rays)

Nicotine changes how nicotinic receptors

This inspired a group of University of Kentucky researchers to explore the role nicotine plays in the assembly of nicotinic receptors within the brain.

During the Biophysical Society’s 61st Annual Meeting, being held Feb. 11-15, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Faruk Moonschi, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, will present the group’s work, which centers on a fluorescence-based “single molecule” technique they developed.

“Like many people in my country, Bangladesh, my father is a heavy smoker,” Moonschi said, explaining his interest in studying nicotine addiction. “Despite the fact that my mother and siblings have encouraged him to quit, he has never been able to stop smoking. I’ve always been interested in what led to his addiction, so I joined a research group working within the area of addiction to study the underlying mechanisms of nicotine dependency.”

The group explored whether nicotine exposure increases the total number of nicotinic receptors on cell surfaces and if it changes the way the receptor is grouped. “To do this, we use custom-built microscopes to expose our samples to laser excitation while we detect the fluorescence signal given off from the labeled proteins,”

New Treatment Combats COPD

New research published online in The FASEB Journal reveals a potential drug to combat the life-threatening effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Specifically, the study investigated the efficacy of a receptor for advanced glycan end-products (RAGE)-specific antagonist chemical compound, FPS-ZM1, in mice, and found that this compound reverses the inflammatory response and has a protective role in COPD.

“RAGE disturbances in pulmonary disorders are precise and effective strategies with beneficial clinical effects,” said Se-Ran Yang, D.V.M., Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work and an associate professor at the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery in the School of Medicine at Kangwon National University in Gangwon, Korea. “Blockade of RAGE as a novel clinical therapeutic for COPD ameliorates emphysema/COPD development and progression.”

In their study, Yang and colleagues investigated the efficacy of RAGE-specific antagonist FPS-ZM1 administration in both in vivo and in vitro COPD models to determine the molecular mechanism by which RAGE influences COPD. The researchers injected mice with an in vivo COPD inducer and the RAGE antagonist FPS-ZM1. Then they assessed the infiltrated inflammatory cells and their production of cytokines. Cellular expression of RAGE, initiating inflammatory response, and soluble RAGE, acting as a

Bell’s Palsy Basics

Imagine waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and realizing that one side of your face is sagging, your eyelid is drooping, and you are drooling out the side of your mouth. If you have ever had this experience, you were probably experiencing Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Although Bell’s palsy duration is usually limited to a few months, the symptoms can certainly be disturbing.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy can occur at any age but is most common at around age 40. Men and women are affected equally. Every year about 15 to 30 people out of 100,000 get Bell’s palsy. The cause of Bell’s palsy is not completely understood but is believed to be caused by a viral infection that causes swelling of the facial nerve.

The two facial nerves are large nerves that branch out across the face and carry electrical impulses to the facial muscles. Each nerve contains 7,000 nerve fibers. When the nerve swells in response to an infection, the electrical impulses get weak and the facial muscles lose their movement. Branches of the facial nerve are also

Surprising link between athletics

After all, sport and physical activity go hand in hand with good mental health — or so conventional wisdom would suggest.

“Instead, what we found is with addiction, the more risks that are present, the greater likelihood it is going to develop,” said de Grace, a master’s graduate of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. “Sport, it appears, has the potential to increase the risk factors.”

Rather than looking at individuals in sport and trying to identify the pathway to addiction, de Grace flipped the model and interviewed people in recovery from addiction, virtually all of whom had a sporting background.

She categorized the participants based on their level of sport engagement, from recreational athletes to those who played sports as youngsters but dropped out in high school — often because of drugs and alcohol — to the largest group, elite athletes.

Though a full spectrum of sports was represented in the study — including gymnastics, martial arts, rowing and dance — most participants competed in team sports, hockey in particular.

Patterns regarding the culture of sport began to emerge, the most prominent being social acceptance and normalization of drugs and alcohol,

Painkiller Use Common Among NFL Players

The survey found more than half of the retired NFL players interviewed used opioidpainkillers during their career. Of those, 71 percent reported misusing the drugs while playing, and 15 percent said they still abuse the prescription medication, Dr. Linda B. Cottler, of Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues reported online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The former broadcaster and NY Giants great, Frank Gifford, said, “pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.”

The findings from Cottler’s survey support Gifford’s assessment.

An analysis of survey data showed the rate of opioid misuse while the retired players were active in the NFL was roughly three times greater than the lifetime rate of nonmedical use of opioids in the general population of approximately the same age.

Misuse in the past 30 days in retired players was seven percent, versus less than two percent in adults 26 and older in the general population. Looking only at men in the general population, the abuse rate is about two and half percent.

The final sample included 644 former players listed in the 2009 Retired NFL Football Players Association Directory who had retired

Imported Jewelry Can Pose Danger

A 1-year-old boy living in New York City had a rapid increase in blood lead levels, and the likely source of the exposure was traced to a Cambodian amulet made from knotted string and metallic beads, according to researchers from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the CDC.

Testing revealed that the beads contained 45 percent lead, the researchers reported in Jan. 28 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The boy had worn the amulet — “something to protect him,” his father said — since he was 3 months old, and had been seen putting it in his mouth.

“Healthcare providers and public health workers should consider traditional customs when seeking sources of lead exposure in Southeast Asian populations,” the authors wrote.

Healthcare professionals should ask parents — particularly from Southeast Asian families — about the use of amulets, they added, noting that educational efforts about the risk of lead poisoning from jewelry are needed for immigrant families.

An accompanying editorial note pointed out that the CDC recommends blood lead testing for internationally adopted and refugee children and that the New York City health department recommends testing all