October 31st, 2013
12:04 PM ET
Wave your hand slowly in front of your face.
Did your eyes track the movement? If so, your brain has formed a memory of that action; it will remember what the motion looks like in case you ever do it again.
In fact, a new study suggests that even if you wave your hand in front of your face in total darkness, your eyes may "see" it simply because they've seen it before. FULL POST
October 29th, 2013
05:00 PM ET
A mother's level of education has strong implications for a child's development. Northwestern University researchers show in a new study that low maternal education is linked to a noisier nervous system in children, which could affect their learning.
"You really can think of it as static on your radio that then will get in the way of hearing the announcer’s voice," says Nina Kraus, senior author of the study and researcher at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is part of a larger initiative working with children in public high schools in inner-city Chicago. The adolescents are tracked from ninth to 12th grade. An additional group of children in the gang-reduction zones of Los Angeles are also being tracked.
October 28th, 2013
02:00 PM ET
Providing condoms to adolescents has been - and likely will continue to be - a controversial topic. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking communities, educators, parents and doctors to step up in making this form of contraception more available to teens.
"Although abstinence of sexual activity is the most effective method for prevention of pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), young people should be prepared for the time when they will become sexually active," several doctors wrote in a policy statement published Monday in the organization's journal Pediatrics. "When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy and many STIs, including HIV."
Teen pregnancy rates are declining in the United States; in 2011, the number of babies born to women aged 15 to 19 was at a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, continue to be a problem for this age group. The CDC estimates that people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of the 20 million new STI cases that are reported each year.
In the statement, an update from their 2001 position, the pediatricians' organization recommends removing restrictions and barriers that often prevent teens from accessing condoms. Parents should be talking to their teens about sex, the doctors say, and pediatricians can help. The paper's authors encourage their colleagues to provide condoms in their offices and support increasing access in the community. They also recommend providing condoms in schools, in addition to comprehensive sexual education.
October 28th, 2013
11:56 AM ET
Some 7,500 children are hospitalized yearly for gunshot wounds, and 500 of them die, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The study also found a "significant association" between the percentage of kids' gunshot wounds occurring in homes and the percentage of households containing firearms, the AAP said in a statement. Researchers reviewed statistics from the Kids' Inpatient Database from 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009, and estimated state household gun ownership using the most recent data available from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
October 25th, 2013
02:08 PM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published recently that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation - so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
Some obesity may be related to slow metabolism, really
"Slow metabolism" as an explanation for obesity has been largely knocked down by doctors as inaccurate. But University of Cambridge researchers showed in a new study that mutations on a particular gene slow metabolism, which may be linked to obesity in some people.
Previous research had shown that mice without the gene KSR2 tended to become overweight.
In this study, researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,101 people with severe early-onset obesity and 1,536 people who were not obese. They saw that mutations in KSR2 were associated with "hyperphagia (increased appetite) in childhood, low heart rate, reduced basal metabolic rate and severe insulin resistance."
Fewer than one in 100 people have KSR2 mutations, and some of those do have normal weight, BBC News reports.
This genetics research could have implications for developing drugs that help people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, the study said.
High blood sugar linked to memory problems
Past studies have suggested that diabetes raises the risk for Alzheimer's disease although it's not entirely clear why. New research finds that even in people who don't have diabetes, chronically higher blood glucose levels are associated with poorer outcomes in the brain.
This study looked at 141 people, average age 63, without diabetes or pre-diabetes. No participants were overweight or had memory and thinking impairment.
On cognitive tests, participants with lower blood glucose levels performed better in terms of delayed recall, learning ability and memory consolidation than those with higher levels. What's more, those with higher levels tended to have smaller volumes in the hippocampus, a sea horse-shaped brain structure crucial for memory.
“These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age,” study author Dr. Agnes Flöel of Charité University Medicine in Berlin said in a statement. “Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested.”
This study received significant media attention, but Dr. Jane Chiang, the American Diabetes Association's Senior vice president of medical affairs and community information, said she has a lot of concerns about the way it was conducted. The participants weren't entirely "healthy," according to their blood glucose levels - in fact, they may have diabetes and not know it, she said.
A bigger concern, Chiang said, is that older adults aren't recommended to have a strictly regulated "normal" blood glucose in the first place. Low blood sugar presents dangerous risks of falls and seizures, so the American Diabetes Association discourages tight blood sugar control in older adults.
October 23rd, 2013
06:05 PM ET
As more people learn about how football's hard hits to the head can lead to brain trauma, fewer parents may be willing to let their kids out on the field. That's according to a new poll released Wednesday by HBO Real Sports and Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
One in three Americans say knowing about the damage that concussions can cause would make them less likely to allow their sons to play football, the poll found.
Keith Strudler, director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, who helped oversee the phone survey of more than 1,200 adults in July, said this could be alarming news for the future of football. "Historically, youth football has fueled the NFL," said Strudler. "Parents' concern about the safety of the game could jeopardize the future of the sport."
October 22nd, 2013
05:00 PM ET
If I offer you a bag of potato chips today or a box of chocolate truffles next week, which would you choose? Neuroscientists are interested in exploring what happens when the brain must choose between receiving a reward immediately or in the future, especially when waiting may result in a prize you like better.
A seahorse-shaped structure in the brain called the hippocampus is involved in recalling events from the past, and imagining them in the future. A new study in the journal PLOS Biology explores what role the hippocampus plays when a person has to decide between getting a reward now or later.
This study looked at healthy individuals as well as those with Alzheimer's disease, a condition characterized by memory impairment and associated with atrophy of the hippocampus, and a different brain condition called frontotemporal dementia.
October 22nd, 2013
10:34 AM ET
Whether because of burns, age-related baldness or other diseases, both men and women are vulnerable to losing significant quantities of hair. There are limited options available for helping them grow it back, but scientists are trying to unlock solutions.
A new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers fresh potential for restoring hair, using a person's own cells. Study authors demonstrated their technique on the backs of mice, but they've genetically confirmed that the hairs themselves are human.
"Everything was done in human cells, both the donors and the recipients. In most of the work that’s been done up to now it’s a hybrid – the hairs are usually part rodent and part human," said Angela Christiano, professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, one of the senior authors of the new study. "So having an assay that’s all human is actually a big thing."
October 21st, 2013
03:13 PM ET
More adolescents being vaccinated for pertussis appears to result in fewer pertussis-related hospitalizations in infants, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
"The number of hospitalizations in 2011 we observed were 30% of what we would have expected had there not been a vaccine," says lead study author Dr. Katherine Auger, who also specializes in pediatric hospital patient care at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "For every 10,000 infants, we saw 3.3 pertussis hospitalizations. We expected 10.7 hospitalizations had there not been a vaccine."
The study looked at hospitalization rates, using nationwide inpatient samples, and compared it to data before and after the so-called Tdap vaccination was recommended for universal administration to adolescents in 2006.
October 21st, 2013
09:40 AM ET
Donated breast milk is "liquid gold at our house,” says Stacy Richards, 37.
The liquid gold is for Simeon, Richards' adopted 11-month-old son. He was born with Down syndrome and suffers from chronic lung disease. Richards believes "breast is best" but couldn't breastfeed, so she turned to the next best thing.
Initially, she sought milk on community milk sharing sites, like “Eats on Feets,” and “Human Milk 4 Human Babies,” but didn’t feel comfortable getting milk from strangers. “We didn’t know who those women were. They didn’t have a safety net,” said Richards. Instead, she relied on trusted friends.
Richards had every right to worry, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The study found milk bought off of the Internet through social media sites was more than twice as likely to be contaminated with infection-causing bacteria and three times more likely to contain salmonella than milk from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBNA). While only 5% of the HMBNA milk tested positive for herpes viruses, 21% of milk from the Internet contained bacteria and viruses. FULL POST
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.