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October 12th, 2010
06:53 PM ET

FDA OKs drug to fight opiate addiction

Doctors who treat drug addicts have a new option at their fingertips, thanks to a decision Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA gave its blessing to an injectable medicine, Vivitrol, as a treatment for opiate addiction. That's addiction to drugs including heroin as well as powerful prescription painkillers such as OxyContin.

Vivitrol is a time-release version of a drug called naltrexone, which blocks brain receptors from responding to opiates. Without that internal reward, the craving for the drug goes away.

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October 12th, 2010
05:16 PM ET

Miners' ascent an ending and a beginning

Much has been written about their lives, their predicament and their health.

One by one, the 33 Chilean miners trapped in a gold and copper mine since the start of August are expected to be lifted out of the earth starting Tuesday night.

Their ascent could pose some risk to miners if they are re-introduced to sunlight abruptly. Or they could encounter dizziness, panic or minor cardiac issues while being inside the rescue capsule as it spins to the surface. FULL POST


How friends matter to your brain
October 12th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

How friends matter to your brain

Your friends may matter to you in ways that you can't even see - at the level of neural circuitry in the brain.

It turns out that the brain's frontal midline, an area between the two hemispheres that is associated with socialization and the way you think about yourself, also shows a greater response from friends than strangers, even strangers with similar interests and lifestyles, said Fenna Krienen, graduate student at Harvard University and lead author of a new study on the subject.

"What we ended up finding is that closeness really seems to matter to these circuits in the brain much more than similarity," she said.

Krienen's study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, did four different functional magnetic imaging experiments on a total of 98 participants to explore these issues of brain activation and social ties.

They looked at how the brain would respond to strangers who have different interests from those of the participants, compared  with strangers with common interests, and whether that reaction would correspond to what they observed with friends.

Some participants viewed photos that they brought in of two friends and answered questions that mimicked the TV show “The Newlywed Game," which dealt with how their friends would answer particular questions. One of these friends was someone the individual participant considered similar to himself or herself; the other the participant viewed as dissimilar. They also did this with "strangers" - researchers had invented their biographies, and paired photos with them that previous participants had brought in of their friends. Some of these biographies indicated similar interests to those of the participants, others were different.

Researchers found that it didn't matter whether the strangers had common or dissimilar interests to their own - the strangers tended not to produce the same effect on the medial prefrontal regions and associated regions as the friends. It also didn't matter whether participants considered the friends similar or unlike themselves; the relevant brain regions showed enhanced responses to both kinds of friends.

"In every case, it seemed like friends were processed with much greater neural activity in brain networks that make sense to us than did strangers," Krienen said.

More precisely, the scientists saw increased blood oxygenation levels in the frontal midline and associated regions. This indicates increased neuronal activity in those areas.

This brain area, in addition to social responses, has been shown in other research to be involved in tasks that require calculating expected rewards and making other kinds of decisions.

Previous research had also looked at these regions on the question about how the brain responds to strangers, but this is a first look at how the similarity of acquaintances and strangers might play a role, Krienen said. The study proposes further research in this area, including a study of how the brain responds to a close acquaintance with whom the participant doesn't get along very well.


Breast cancer: Surgery
October 12th, 2010
09:21 AM ET

Breast cancer: Surgery

This week, Amanda Enayati shares the milestones of a life-altering journey that began the day she learned she had late-stage breast cancer more than three years ago.

The mastectomy of my right breast took place in September 2007. Because the tumor was enormous, they also had to remove some muscle from my right chest so that they could make sure they had “clean margins” around the mass.

Would you believe that I really wasn’t fearful going into the operation? And though my breasts were probably one of my nicest features, I wasn’t particularly traumatized about losing one, either. I’m still not.  To me, it was a matter of: It’s diseased and so it’s got to go. Frankly, I still feel attractive. I know women whose continuing refusal to remove their cancer-ridden breasts became tantamount to suicide. I don’t relate to that kind of attachment to your breasts but I am able to understand it. Really, do we need to look any further than the images we’re constantly force-fed by our media to understand why not having breasts is unthinkable to some women?

I don’t remember much about the morning we all drove down to Stanford hospital to check in for my operation. My dad was driving the car, I think. My husband, sister-in-law and best friend were there. My mother stayed home with the babies.

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Filed under: Cancer

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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