Review Category : Health

Scientists Working on Editing Bad Memories

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Just like Jim Carrey’s character did in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, researchers are closing in on a way to safely erase traumatic memories.

As explained in PBS’ Nova special Memory Hackers on Wednesday night, Columbia University’s Nobel Prize-winning ­neuroscientist Eric Kandel first discovered that creating a memory actually causes physical connections in the human brain.

However, those synaptic connections change every time the memory is recalled, so they can be modified, Memory Hackers‘ writer, director, and producer Michael Bicks, tells the New York Post.

In a treatment that could someday be duplicated with soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Bicks explains, arachnophobic people were treated with a drug called propanolol after being exposed to spiders.

After the treatment, when the test subjects were exposed to the arachnids again, they weren’t afraid — and that replaced what would normally be a fearful memory of spiders. Essentially, the new positive memory copied over the negative ones — so much so that the test subject was able to pet a hairy, palm-sized tarantula “completely relaxed.”

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Parents Accuse Doctor of Performing Oral Surgery on Newborn by Mistake

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The parents of a Tennessee newborn say that their infant was mistakenly operated on while they were still in the hospital.

Nate Harper was born on Dec. 16 at University Medical Center in Lebanon, Tennessee, Nate’s mother Jennifer Melton said. A day after his birth, he was taken away by a nurse for a routine physical, Melton said, but when a nurse brought him back she started discussing a procedure called a “frenulectomy.” The outpatient procedure involves clipping the bottom of the tongue to allow babies to feed more easily.

Melton said she asked the nurse what procedure she was talking about since Nate was just supposed to get a physical. In medical records released to ABC News by Melton and her husband Domonique Harper, the attending doctor wrote that he performed the procedure after he discussed it with “the parents of a different child.” The doctor wrote in the notes that he had called to apologize for his “mistake.”

“It’s so frustrating that a moment that should have been so happy and joyous for us was ruined with this event,” Melton told ABC News, noting that the doctor called to say he was “sorry” he operated on the wrong baby. In the medical records, the doctor wrote that he also visited the parents in the hospital to apologize and admitted it was his fault.

The hospital declined to address the operation directly, citing federal privacy laws, but that the hospital always take action to address patient concerns.

“University Medical Center is committed to providing quality care to all of our patients and expect independent members of the medical staff to honor the appropriate directives of their patients and families,” said Adam Groshans, a spokesman for University Medical Center.

“Due to federal privacy regulations, we are unable to comment on any specific patient,” Groshans added. “However, we can confirm that we take seriously any concerns brought to our attention, and those matters are reviewed pursuant to the hospital’s medical staff by-laws. If made aware of a concern, we promptly seek to address it and take action as appropriate to prevent any future concerns.”

The family’s attorney Clint Kelly has told ABC News that the couple now intends to file a lawsuit and that the hospital charged them for the procedure.

“We don’t want another family to have to go through this,” Melton told ABC News.

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Boy with Cerebral Palsy ‘Skateboards’ with Dad

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — An 8-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair is now the hottest skateboarder on his block thanks to a bit of ingenuity from his mom and dad.

Atticus Edmunds, 8, got his first feeling of flying down a skate ramp last month after his mom, Tresa Edmunds, saw a video on Facebook of a boy in a wheelchair being pushed around a skate park.

Edmunds recruited her husband, Jared Edmunds, and the family of three went to the skate park down the street from their home near Sacramento, California, to let Atticus experience the sensation of skate boarding himself. Jared pushed Atticus up and down the skate park’s ramps as if the two were on a board together.

“I couldn’t see the kid’s reaction in the Facebook video and I wanted to see what Atticus would think of it,” Tresa Edmunds told ABC News. “It was an experiment.”

“Atticus’ reaction was so much more than anything we could have anticipated,” she said.

Atticus, who is limited in his speaking and walking capabilities, is now a regular at the skate park, where the other kids have adopted him as one of their own.

“He’s a local celebrity,” Edmunds said. “What I’m loving about this skating world we’re entering accidentally is that it’s all about getting up and making the attempt.”

“They’ve just embraced him as a skater,” she said. “All the other kids are giving him high-fives.”

Atticus was born at 28 weeks and weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces. He is now a second-grader.

His parents are using his new love of skating as an incentive for schoolwork, and as a life lesson in determination.

“We’ll say, ‘Do your homework and we’ll go to the skate park,” Edmunds said. “He had his first wipeout and it spooked him a little bit because he’s not used to falling over.”

“We had a talk about, ‘If you’re going to be a skater you have to get back up,’ and he did,” she said. “He got right back out there.”

Edmunds, a blogger, posted a YouTube video of Atticus and his dad’s “skating” that has more than 50,000 views.

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Baby Born at Just 10 Ounces Finally Gets to Go Home

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — One of the world’s smallest surviving babies is finally out of the hospital.

Born 14 weeks early and weighing just 10 ounces, E’Layah Faith Pergues faced an uphill battle to survive. Her doctors at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, were not sure that she would survive her delivery or the first few weeks of life.

She was born so early that doctors weren’t even sure how to feed her.

“Our goal since her birth was to grow her as quickly and as safely as we could,” said Dr. Andrew Herman, MD, neonatologist and chief medical officer at Levine Children’s Hospital in a statement.

Eventually they combined formula and breast milk to keep E’Layah healthy.

“We’ve had to fine-tune our approach with E’Layah,” Herman added. “We are now feeding her a combination of protein, fat, sugar, electrolytes and vitamins that will help prevent infections, mature her intestines and help her gain weight.”

Her doctors believe she is the smallest surviving baby ever seen at the hospital and affectionately dubbed her “tater tot” due to her size.

E’Layah’s mother, Megan Smith, had a difficult pregnancy, suffering from high blood pressure and even having two strokes. Although she was on bed rest for a month, she had an emergency Cesarean section after doctors realized that E’Layah had stopped moving.

On Wednesday, after five months, E’Layah is finally spending her first full day at home. Weighing in at a healthy 5 pounds and 7 ounces, she’s now “outgrown most of her preemie clothes,” her mother said in a statement released by the hospital.

“She is a very busy little lady, always grabbing and pulling things and moving around,” Smith said. “We are all very excited to be going home. It’s been a long journey and we are looking forward to the next chapter.”

Despite her small stature, E’Layah’s parents are confident that their daughter will grow into an active child.

“I know she will be something special, whether it’s running on the track, ballet lessons or even basketball,” Smith said. “We pray for her strength. E’Layah is our miracle baby girl.”

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Survey: 1 in 12 American Women Still Smoke During Pregnancy

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Approximately 8.4 percent of women report smoking tobacco at some time during their pregnancy, according to new data from a large national survey.

The statistic is an improvement when compared to past statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on smoking and pregnancy. However, given the risks associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy — which include low birth weight, preterm birth and fetal/infant mortality — health officials overwhelmingly agree that any level of this behavior is too high.

The lowest rate of tobacco use during pregnancy was noted to be in California, while the highest rate was in West Virginia.

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Sigh-ence: Researchers Unlock the Lifesaving Reason We Sigh

iStock/Thinkstock(STANFORD, Calif.) — While we tend to sigh when we’re sad or depressed, scientists have discovered that, unlike the famous song noted, a sigh isn’t just a sigh: instead, the deep breath is a lifesaving reflex.

According to the research from the Stanford University School of Medicine that has just been published in Nature, the same tiny clusters of nerve cells in the brain stem that unconsciously regulate our breathing actually call for us to sigh as many as a dozen times an hour in order to keep our lungs functioning properly.

Sighing over-inflates the myriad tiny sacs in the lungs called alveoli, which the research proved turns out is a key — but until now unappreciated — feature of healthy lung function.

The researchers noted that the importance of sighs could be why machines used to replicate lung function don’t preserve lung function as well as the body’s natural mechanisms can.

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Your Body: Seasonal Affective Disorder

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

It’s cloudy, cold, dreary and gray outside — and all of that can lead to a condition called seasonal affective disorder.

About a half a million people in the United States suffer from S.A.D. Three quarters of sufferers are women, and the condition is more commonly seen in the cloudy parts of the country or areas farther north or south of the equator.

So what can you do to combat these winter blues?

Try an exercise program. Sluggishness, tiredness, lethargy and avoidance are all hallmarks of S.A.D. If you get your body and your brain moving, you’ll feel better.

Some people may even want to try light therapy. Simply opening the blinds in the morning or getting outdoors for a few minutes a day can be a step in the right direction.

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“GMA'”s Michael Strahan Talks to His Dad About Heart Health

ABC News(NEW YORK) — It’s National Heart Month, and Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan sat down for a heart-to-heart conversation with his father, Gene Strahan, about improving his heart health.

In the video chat, Strahan said he decided to talk about his dad’s heart condition to help ensure his dad is “around as long as possible.”

“Sometimes the hardest thing to do is talk to your dad or your hero. Because you admire them,” Strahan said in the new video recorded for Meta, a wellness line, for which Strahan is a spokesperson. “Who doesn’t want their father or the person who is most influential in their life to be around as long as possible?”

Have a conversation with parents or loved ones about their health can often be overlooked, according to ABC News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser.

“Looking to your parent, who’s always told you what to do for your health, and then saying, ‘I kind of need to suggest something to them,’ you have to be really sensitive about how you do it,” Besser said Wednesday on GMA.

Besser advises including siblings in the conversation and handling the topic of your parents’ health with sensitivity and respect.

“First, it’s not one conversation, it’s a series of conversations, so you want to talk early, talk often, and progress with that,” Besser said. “If you start the conversation and it’s not going well, you can punt and come back to it and realize there are other opportunities.”

Besser said it’s also important to remember that health changes made at any point in life can make a difference.

“As you get older you want to make sure that you’re checking your blood pressure and cholesterol more but, more than tests, you want to try and make sure your parents are staying on track with a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise and stopping smoking,” Besser said. “You can be in your 70s and 80s and make changes that are going to affect your life.”

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Running Boosts Brainpower, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study that has been published in the Journal of Physiology: London proved that running — unlike other exercises — boosts your brainpower.

According to the findings by scientists at the Department of Psychology and the Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, aerobic exercise fires up the neurons in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is the portion of the brain responsible for learning.

Interestingly, while all exercise is good for your body, high intensity aerobic training and resistance training like weightlifting apparently don’t mirror running’s brain-boosting effects.

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New Bacteria Species That Causes Lyme Disease Found in Midwest

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers have discovered a new species of bacteria that causes Lyme disease — the second species known to transmit the potentially debilitating illness in North America.

The newly identified bacteria is called “Borrelia mayonii,” in honor of the Mayo Clinic researchers who assisted with the discovery, along local health departments and scientists at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria species was discovered after six people with suspected Lyme disease ended up with unusual results and researchers did extensive genetic testing to determine that the patients were infected with a newly discovered bacteria. Previously only “Borrelia burgdorferi” was known to cause Lyme disease in North America, according to the study published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the findings show how new technology has helped advance our understanding of emerging infectious diseases.

“This was likely a bacteria that was there all the time but because our scientific tests couldn’t identify it,” Schaffner said. “It was an unknown infection.”

The findings may help many others if they have suffered from a mysterious illness that turns out to be this new species of bacteria, Schaffner said.

“The information will go out to doctors in the communities. They will start to ask for testing for this bug in a wider variety of cases,” he said. “The clinical picture will mature as it goes on.”

The new bacteria causes slightly different symptoms during the infection, including acute symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diffuse rashes instead of the “bulls-eye” rash associated with Borrelia burgdorferi-caused Lyme disease.

“This discovery adds another important piece of information to the complex picture of tick-borne diseases in the United States,” Dr. Jeannine Petersen, a microbiologist at the CDC said in a statement Monday.

The new bacteria is also spread by the black-legged tick or “deer tick,” according to researchers. However, after extensive testing, researchers believe the bacteria is confined to the upper Midwest of the United States, with just six cases found out of 9,000 samples drawn in the Midwest of infected patients. They found infected ticks in two counties in Wisconsin, but believe there are infected ticks throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Researchers also saw no sign of the new bacteria after examining at least 25,000 blood samples from people with suspected tick-borne illnesses in 23 states other than Wisconsin.

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