August 12th, 2013
04:05 PM ET
You are looking at a woman's face; the contours and features seem so familiar. You see the billowing brown hair, the broad smile, the almond-shaped eyes. You may even be able to describe things about her: Famous talk show host, actress in "The Color Purple," philanthropist.
You feel a familiar pang of frustration because the name seems to be in your grasp, but you cannot come up with it.
The person, of course, is Oprah Winfrey. The inability to conjure the name of such a famous face, for some people, is one of several symptoms of a brain disease called primary progressive aphasia (PPA).
The disease "affects a person's ability to communicate," said Tamar Gefen, a doctoral candidate at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, adding that the disease attacks language centers in the brain.
"Slowly, over time a person loses the ability to name, comprehend, write and communicate," Gefen said.
The loss is not fleeting, but persistent, progressive, and socially crippling. Patients do not just have difficulty naming Oprah, but can have problems recognizing their own family members or friends. All of that makes having an accurate test for the disease important.
June 11th, 2013
10:53 AM ET
When compared to the bone-jarring crash between two football helmets, heading a soccer ball might seem almost innocuous. But those seemingly mild hits to a soccer player's head may damage the brain at a deep, molecular level, according to a new study.
"It's entirely possible that the innumerable subconcussive hits that those players have may really be a culprit (for brain injury) as well," said Dr. Michael Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the study's lead author.
The theory gaining ground among many concussion experts is that the unfortunately-named 'subconcussive' hits - less-forceful hits that don't cause an overt concussion - when they accumulate over time, may prove to be more damaging than their more flamboyant cousins. FULL POST
March 10th, 2013
07:58 PM ET
Talk about a startling juxtaposition: A mummy in a CT scanner. You may be wondering: Why in the world would a mummy get a CT scan?
It turns out that preserved peoples are great study subjects, especially when you are trying to figure out the roots of health problems that span millennia.
A study released Sunday in The Lancet suggests that atherosclerosis - the disease that makes arteries go rigid, and is a leading cause of death worldwide - may have been around for thousands of years.
"We like to say that we found the serial killer that's stalked mankind for 4,000 years," said Dr. Randall Thompson, attending cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, and lead author of the study.
March 1st, 2013
07:51 AM ET
The list of products containing bisphenol A is pretty long: it coats the inside of the food cans; it can be found in certain plastic containers; it is sometimes found on cash register receipts.
And the list of maladies linked to the chemical is growing longer.
The latest study, by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, suggests a possible connection between BPA detected in urine samples of children and later problems with breathing.
January 7th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
A marker for later cognitive problems may be starting to show up in the brain tissue of former National Football League players.
According to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology, researchers found that cognitive problems and depression are more common among aging NFL players with a history of concussion. But brain damage and mood problems among some segments of the NFL population is not stunning news anymore.
What has got scientists slightly giddy are those markers: Poor performance on cognitive tests also showing up on sophisticated brain scans. It suggests that damage post-concussion could some day be detectable by scanning the brain.
September 28th, 2012
11:07 AM ET
Do a quick inventory of your medicine cabinet. How many unused prescription pills are hanging out there? If you are like many Americans, your answer is probably:
"Twenty hydrocodone left over from getting my wisdom teeth pulled last year," or
"Fifteen oxycodone left over from the C-section when my son was born."
An estimated 200 million pounds of unused prescriptions are gathering dust in American medicine cabinets, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. The problem is, those innocuous-seeming leftovers can end up in the wrong hands and, in extreme cases, lead to an overdose.
August 17th, 2012
09:26 AM ET
A group of 80-year-olds is making scientific waves because of an uncanny ability to age gracefully, from a cognitive standpoint. The moniker they've been given by scientists is "SuperAgers," because as they age, their brains seem immune to typical declines in thinking and memory.
"We know that as we age, our cognitive skills decline, and there's also a change in the amount of brain matter," said Emily Rogalski, assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Then there are these people over 80 who seem particularly sharp and somehow resist changes in memory when they age."
That resistance to memory changes means identifying what makes someone a "SuperAger" is important because of the insight their brains could provide for their cognitive opposites, those who suffer with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
July 3rd, 2012
02:44 PM ET
If you are not grappling with cancer-related pain, you probably should not be taking prescription methadone.
That is the message spiraling out of startling statistics suggesting using methadone inappropriately is linked to one-third of prescription painkiller overdose deaths.
Methadone accounted for a mere 2% of prescriptions in 2009, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that spans 10 years and 13 states, but was responsible for 30% of prescription painkiller deaths.
"Methadone is riskier than other opiates for treating non-cancer pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, who added that there is limited scientific evidence it works for chronic non-cancer pain. "It should only be used for pain when other drugs haven't been effective."
July 2nd, 2012
04:47 PM ET
A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection that starts in the litter box. A new study suggests an association between Toxoplasma gondii and suicide attempts among women.
Interesting finding, to be sure, but how does one even begin to test a theory like this? Why in the world would anyone posit that kitty litter could be related to suicide attempts?
As it turns out, about one-third of the population is walking around right now with latent toxoplasma infection. Most people will never know they have it - and most will not attempt suicide as a result of it. But the presence of T. gondii among women who attempted suicide raises interesting questions.
Those questions led senior study author, Dr. Teodor Postolache, to find out more. Postolache said he was at first puzzled by studies suggesting low-grade activity in the immune systems of suicide victims.
May 24th, 2012
06:31 PM ET
Imagine the incessant, grating sound of buzzing in your ears - or constant beeping, whistling, dripping, or clicking. Imagine the chatter of crickets or birds resonating in your head all day long.
Then realize that there are no actual birds or crickets. No dripping faucet. No clicking or whistling happening in the vicinity.
That is a small glimpse of life with tinnitus: The perception of sound, that doesn't exist, manufactured by the brain.
"I hear tree frogs and crickets and bugs, and really loud noise on top of that," said Ginny Morrell, 60, who has suffered with tinnitus for two years. "It started one day and never went away. It never wavers, 24 hours a day."
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.