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Tuesday
Aug142018

New 'zombie' gene found in elephants could help humans fight cancer

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They may not be the fastest or the smartest or even the scariest, but when it comes to beating cancer, elephants are the superheroes of the living world.

It's a phenomenon that has baffled scientists since the 1970s. After all, at their size, they should have a much higher rate of the disease. The larger a living thing, the more the cells, and the more the cells, the more chance one of them turns out to be cancerous -- which is why tall people are more vulnerable to the disease than short people and why Marmaduke is much more likely to get cancer than the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

And yet, cancer rates among elephants is less than 5 percent, comparable to the rates in much smaller animals. The lifetime cancer mortality rate for humans is about 20 percent.

So what gives? With all those cells on their body, why are more elephants not stricken by the disease?

Scientists may have found an answer.

In a paper published in the journal Cell Reports Tuesday, researchers from the University of Chicago announced they may have discovered one of the cancer protection mechanisms the pachyderms have evolved to deal with every time a cell may be corrupted.

"What we found is that elephants have an extra copy of the gene whose job it is to kill the cell when there is the kind of stress that causes cancer," said Vincent Lynch, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago in Illinois and an author of the study.

The fact that this gene was even functional was extraordinary -- it was supposed to be non-functional or "dead". Yet somehow this "zombie" gene, called leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6), had evolved in elephants to come back from the dead and slay any cell that showed damage to its DNA, thus preventing it from becoming cancerous.

This is the second study that has found the differences in elephant genome that may explain the animal's ability to resist the disease.

In 2015, two teams of scientists -- one led by Lynch from the University of Chicago and the other from the University of Utah -- found in elephants 20 copies of a major cancer-suppressing gene called p53 that helps damaged cells repair themselves or self-destruct when exposed to cancer-causing substances.

Both these discoveries could have implications for the human fight against cancer, Lynch said.

"If we understand the function of this gene and all the other genes that makes elephants cancer-resistant, maybe we'll be able to develop drugs that mimic those functions and then use that to treat people with the disease," he said.

And there's hope that over time, scientists will come upon more such discoveries. Other creatures, such as some types of whales, bats and mole rats, also show unusual resistance to cancer, and they have none of the extra genes found in elephants -- which means they must have evolved their very own cancer protection mechanisms.

But don't cheer yet. Even if Lynch's findings in 2015 and 2018 are replicated and confirmed, there's still a long way to go.

"Developing new drug treatments is a very complex process and it takes decades," Lynch said. "We always hear the news that there is some discovery and that a new treatment based on that discovery is five to 10 years away but it's never five to 10 years. So this is going to be a very very long process."

"Of course," he added, "I guess we've been dealing with cancer for billions of years, so you know, a couple of decades isn't that long in the grand scheme of things."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug142018

Suicide risk nearly double for traumatic brain injury sufferers: Study

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People who have been identified as having suffered a traumatic brain injury have almost double the risk of suicide than people without the condition, a new study by researchers in Denmark has found.

The study, published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA, examined 34,529 deaths by suicide over 35 years from a Danish national registry and people who had medical contact for traumatic brain injury (TBI). Researchers not only found an increased risk of suicide between traumatic brain injury sufferers and the general population, they also found that the risk of suicide was even higher for people who had experienced severe traumatic brain injury and who had numerous medical visits or longer hospital stays related to the condition.

Patients who had longer hospital stays following traumatic brain injuries were at highest risk for suicide in the first six months after being discharged from the hospital, the study found.

The study did have limitations: the kind of medical treatment people with traumatic brain injuries received is unknown, and it does not account for people who have not sought medical treatment after suffering these injuries. But the study is an interesting look into the possible psychiatric effects of traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries have made headlines from the battlefield to the football field. But what are these injuries, how common are they and what other research is needed to understand them? Here's what you need to know.

What is a traumatic brain injury and how common is it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, traumatic brain injuries can be defined as a type of head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. This can be caused by a bump, blow, jolt to the head, or penetrating injury. Everyone is at risk of experiencing a traumatic brain injury, as these most commonly result from motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and falls.

Traumatic brain injuries can affect behavior, emotion, and motor function and lead to problems with memory, attention, learning, and coordination, according to the CDC's report to Congress on traumatic brain injuries. Other signs and symptoms include headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, according to the CDC.

While the physical impact of a traumatic brain injury is immediate and can be quite devastating, the long-term health consequences are only starting to come to light through research. The injuries may cause secondary disorders such as mood disorders and post-traumatic epilepsy and increase a sufferer's risk for dementia, according to the CDC's report.

Every year in the U.S., traumatic brain injuries account for approximately 2.2 million emergency department visits, 280,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Recently, there has been increased attention to the long-term effects of repeated brain injury, especially as it relates to sports injuries and later development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). More research is still needed to better understand the long-term effects of CTE, including psychological disturbances.

How might traumatic brain injuries put someone at an increased risk of suicide?

While the exact mechanism remains unclear, there are some theories.

Dr. Trine Madsen is the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Danish Institute for Suicide Prevention, part of the Copenhagen Mental Health Center. She said that TBIs can impact the brain’s functions by causing inflammation and damage to blood vessels, which may act to increase the risk of mental health disorders and suicide.

Dr. Fadi Tayim is a clinical neuropsychologist and the director of the Brain Mapping Center at the Premier Health Clinical Neuroscience Institute.

"Often times, we have a certain expectation of our ability and performance. Our identities are deeply rooted in what we do," Tayim told ABC News. “When a brain injury occurs, there is a fundamental disruption in a person’s ability to perform at their best. The longer this disruption persists, the greater the anxiety and pressure build up to 'go back to normal.' When that baseline cannot be achieved, especially in the case of more severe TBIs, there is a higher risk of depression and suicide."

How can we help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries?

The key might be in preventing the injuries from occurring in the first place, Madsen said.

"First and foremost, there needs to be a focus on preventing TBI from occurring, such as through promotion of protective helmets in traffic, at workplaces where risk of falls or head injury are higher, and in contact sports like boxing and American football," Madsen told ABC News. "That said, we would encourage any person who develops post-TBI psychiatric symptoms to seek immediate medical help and treatment right away."

While the results of this study may be sobering, there is hope that they may lead to changes.

Moving forward, Madsen said she also hopes to improve the treatment of traumatic brain injuries in order to minimize the long-term consequences that could lead to suicidal behavior. She said she is also interested in examining how traumatic brain injury might be associated with social consequences, such as employment status in the years following the injury.

Tayim said there are many ways medical professionals can help support patients.

"By knowing the link between severity of TBI and increased suicidality, clinicians can proactively address multiple problem areas by implementing early interventions. For example, arranging for counseling services in addition to speech, physical and occupational therapies," Tayim said.

"Establishing strong social support networks are also critical, and there are additional resources and support services available through Brain Injury Association across the United States. It's important for people to know they are not alone while navigating the recovery process, and proactive counseling may help this transition," Tayim added.

In addition to the resources listed above, a National Concussion Surveillance System has been developed by the CDC to improve prevention, care, and recovery efforts for those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Ryan Guinness MD, MPH is an internal and preventive medicine resident physician currently working the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug142018

Hilarious photo shoot celebrates parents' empty nest

Laura Eskridge(SPRINGBORO, Ohio) -- Some parents despair at the thought of their kids leaving home. But not Vicky and Jeff Piper.

The Springboro, Ohio, couple was so looking forward to their youngest child leaving for college, they celebrated with a photo shoot.

It was her husband's idea, Vicky Piper told "Good Morning America."

"We had just dropped our son at school and I was receiving all these texts asking if we were ok, have I stopped crying, your house is going to be so quiet and what are you guys going to do now?" she said. "We just had a different perspective of empty nest."

The couple's daughter goes to college in Australia and their son in Michigan.

"The kids are cracking up [at the photos]," Piper said. "They are like, 'You are having too much fun,' but they are super happy for us."

Piper said the empty nest "feels amazing."

The photos have been shared widely on Facebook. Piper said she believes the positive reaction is because of the "positive perspective that there is life, hope and love after kids. It's refreshing to see, after all the work you put into raising strong, independent kids, it's time to enjoy your marriage."

She also said that her generation "missed out" on the all the photo opportunities couples do now, like baby announcements.

"Why not join them," she said.

As for the children, of course the Pipers miss them, "but we are looking so forward to spending time together."

"My husband stated for the last three months before our son left how much he just wants to date me all over again," Piper said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug142018

Black boys more fearful in whiter neighborhoods, study finds

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. ANNA CHACON

(NEW YORK) --  Young black men expect increased scrutiny, surveillance and even direct targeting when in areas that have more white people than they typically encounter, a study has found.

Researchers from the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University gave 506 black boys aged 11 to 17 smartphones to track their locations every 30 seconds for a week. The boys were asked where they were, with whom and how safe they felt around Columbus, Ohio, on a scale of 1 to 5. The mini survey took place from 2014 to 2016. Researchers received almost 7,400 total surveys.

Christopher Browning, a professor at Ohio State University and the study's lead author, has extensive experience researching how kids’ neighborhoods affect their behaviors and health.

In Columbus, where the study was conducted, Browning said: "There are high levels of segregation and poverty, but a lot of variation in close proximity -- there are affluent suburbs that are next to neighborhoods that are really poor."

His own childhood experience, growing up on the South side of Chicago, included navigating different neighborhoods and environments that inspired him to pursue this study for answers.

"Chicago is a place in which everyone knows where you're not supposed to go," Browning told ABC News. "In social science, this is the area we are interested in -- neighborhood environments. When we think of environments that do not include family, we think about the neighborhood -- potential exposures for youth that may have some important consequences down the line."

As an urban sociologist, he was concerned that maybe kids didn't spend much time in their neighborhoods and the interactions may be more complex -- their environments outside of their homes and immediate neighborhoods may be affecting their outcomes on a day-to-day basis.

Findings showed that young black men felt less safe in areas with more white people than they typically encountered. They also felt less safe in neighborhoods that were poorer than the ones they frequented. In contrast, black girls did not report feeling less safe in whiter areas. Researchers also noticed that white youths tend to self-segregate.

"Their experiences aren't as variable -- they do not spend as much time in black neighborhoods that black youth spend in white neighborhoods," Browning said. "It's the experience of having to navigate places that are whiter that may actually introduce more scrutiny to black male youth -- by police, by residents -- creating the potential for harassment and even victimization."

In particular, Browning and his researchers were concerned about the long-term consequences of the perception of safety.

"This is thought to be one of the reasons why black youth are generally not as healthy as white youth," Browning said. "There could be some physical and mental health trajectories which we could extrapolate to explain healthcare disparities in adult populations."

The old school mentality about African American youth is that they feel less safe because they live in areas of higher poverty and segregation, but the team found that, on average, African American teens didn't feel less safe. They felt less safe only when visiting poorer neighborhoods or whiter neighborhoods.

"We are not arguing that growing up in a poor, segregated neighborhood doesn't present challenges. One of the challenges are that those neighborhoods tend to have higher violence," Browning said

He suggests that youth may eventually learn to control the experiences and typical exposures they have in their own neighborhoods to reduce the likelihood of experiencing violence. However, when they go to different neighborhoods, they cannot control how they are being perceived and received.

"Who knows who is calling the police if someone decides that you don't belong there?" Browning said. "This may lead to feelings of insecurity in those places."

"The study confirmed what I've always known to be true -- given all the things that are going on in the world but also from personal experience, particularly for African Americans and people of color, there is an awareness that there are places that you are seen as not belonging," Dennis D. Parker, director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program and an adjunct professor at New York Law School, told ABC News. "This study shows that there are serious issues that create a sense of uncertainty and vulnerability in public spaces that should be for everyone. I don't know of black friends who have not spoken to their children, particularly their sons, of dealing with the police. I know of no white parents that have had to do that."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug142018

Body positive model Iskra Lawrence says: 'You are good enough'

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Iskra Lawrence is a 27-year-old body positive model and activist on a mission to change the world.

You may recognize Lawrence from her many lingerie campaigns with Aerie, American Eagle Outfitter’s intimate apparel brand, or from social media, where she has amassed a following of millions preaching about self-love and body acceptance.

Once you notice Lawrence, her fresh face and positive outlook make her hard to forget. But it hasn't always been that way for the English model, who told "GMA" how she developed severe body and mental health issues after hearing she was too curvy or too big from industry insiders to be a professional model.b

"I remember seeing [photos] and being like, 'Why do I have a big stomach?'" she recalled. "'How can I change that about myself?'"

We took a trip down memory lane with the model and activist to learn more about her journey to self-acceptance. From her childhood days in England to becoming the face of Aerie's body-positive brand, this is what advice Lawrence would tell to her younger self.

5 things Iskra Lawrence would tell her younger self

1. You are so much more than your body

"I genuinely thought I was Lara Croft in that photo," Lawrence said, laughing while looking at a picture from her teenage years.

Despite the fierce outfit, Lawrence remembers feeling uncomfortable and getting shamed for her shorts.

"Because I was self-conscious about the size and shape of my body, the only way I was getting appreciated for it was guys and people thinking it was sexy," she said.

"So I would dress in a sexy manner to pretend I was confident about it," she explained. "I was dressing [that way] because I thought that's what I had to be ... because if you’ve got that body, then surely you have to be sexy."

She went on to add a piece of advice she would give to her younger self.

"The advice I would give myself at that age would be -- you are so much more than your body and don’t listen to anyone else’s opinions of you," she said. "Stay true to yourself.”

2. Don’t worry about growing up too quickly

As a child, Lawrence recalls riding horses in her home country of England and not caring about what anyone thought of her, even if her outfit clashed.

"And I said I liked fashion!” she joked looking at the picture. “I think the thing to remember is there, you’re just pure, you’re innocent, you have absolutely zero insecurities because you haven’t been taught to have insecurities yet.

“Just keep having fun, keep trying to be you and be a child.”

3. You are fine just the way you are

Despite being a U.S. size two or four, Lawrence says she was still “too big” for the modeling industry.

“I remember being so hung up on the fact that you could see that shadow so it made me look like I had a big stomach,” she said.

Lawrence said she developed very low-self esteem because she felt like her body wasn't as perfect as traditional commercial models, which sent her into a downwards spiral where she became fixated on how her arms, hips or stomach looked in photos.

“I would say to myself, 'Just stop. Stop torturing yourself. Stop torturing your body. You are good enough,'" she said.

4. Always just go for it

At a roller skating photoshoot, Lawrence said she learned to embrace the idea of how to fake it until you make it.

She admits she exaggerated her roller skating skills to book the gig.

“I was not great at roller skating,” she said, while laughing. "I will always just go for it and fake it 'til you make it sometimes."

5. Being real is good enough

After being told time and time again that she was too curvy or big for the traditional modeling industry, in 2016, Lawrence found a home at Aerie.

"There are so many emotions to this photo because as you can see, I am just living my best life," she said about the ad campaign. "I am just finally at a point of being confident and just happy in my own skin and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks."

Just like Lawrence, Aerie encourages body postivity, using real women, not supermodels, in their ads and promising no digital retouching to showcase their products. Lawrence remembers the "huge" positive reaction she received after the campaign first came out.

“People [were] saying, 'I’ve never seen anything like this in a lingerie campaign before,’" she recalled.

As a body-positive activist and through her responsibility as an Aerie Role Model, Lawrence said she wants to help people recognize their own self-worth.

“I want people who look at my images and instead of wanting to look like me," she said, "I want them to feel as happy as confident as I do."



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug142018

Celery juice is the latest wellness trend: Is it one you should follow?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Supermodel Miranda Kerr says she drinks it every morning and actress Busy Philipps has talked about it with her 1.1 million Instagram followers.

Speaking of Instagram, you’ve probably seen it all over your feed.

It is celery juice, the latest wellness trend gaining buzz on social media and with celebrities and health gurus.

“When juicing came back [in trend], it was all about fruit. Now with carb and sugar phobia, I think vegetable juices have taken hold again,” said Cynthia Sass, RD, CSSD, a New York City and Los Angeles based performance dietitian. “Celery does check several boxes in that it’s green, low-calorie, readily-available, has some research behind it and it seems new.”

In addition to being low in calories, celery provides fiber, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and over a dozen types of antioxidants, according to Sass. It also contains natural substances that have been shown to help optimize circulation and boost endurance and enhance strength training when consumed pre-workout.

Celery also contains anti-inflammatory substances that are thought to help support a healthy gut and protect against cellular damage that can lead to premature aging and disease, noted Sass.

So why aren't we all guzzling celery juice -- made in either a juicer or blender with just celery and water -- all the time?

The human research on celery juice is "scant," according to Sass.

"We don’t have a robust picture of its benefits like we do for something like say, avocado or extra virgin olive oil," she said. "This also means we don’t know the optimal amount or frequency to consume, the potential risks for certain people, and possible interactions with medications and supplements."

She continued, "For example, allergic reactions are possible, especially for people sensitive to birch, dandelion, and other plants. Celery juice may also increase sensitivity to sunlight."

Sass's take on the wellness trend is that celery juice is fine, in moderation, as part of an "overall whole foods based eating portfolio."

"It’s fine to drink it daily, just be sure not to overdo it, and mix it up by consuming other green veggies and various colors of produce, too," she said. "In other words, if you sip celery juice in the morning, you haven’t satisfied your vegetable quota for the day."

When it comes to variety, mixing up the vegetables you eat, or drink, does a body good, according to Sass. Celery is not any better or worse than other buzzy vegetables like kale and spinach, just packed with different nutrients and antioxidants.

"When you eat the same few veggies over and over you miss out on the unique nutrients and other protective compounds found in the plants you aren’t eating," Sass said. "Research backs that variety may even trump quantity when it comes to disease protection, but obviously the ultimate goal is to eat enough produce and mix up the types."

The current recommendation for adults is a minimum of five servings, or five cups, of vegetables a day.

Drinking celery as a juice can help you pack in more servings of celery at a time but does not provide any more nutritional benefits than just eating raw celery, according to Sass.

In fact, there is research in other fruits and vegetables that consumption of them in raw-form versus juice-form may be preferable.

Juicing tends to remove a lot of the fiber content in fruits and vegetables, which helps to lower cholesterol and regulate digestion, and may also remove a lot of the nutritional content, according to Dr. Ryan Guinness, a resident physician at Kaiser Permanente and UCSF Medical Center and a fellow in ABC News' medical unit.

"I think the general consensus among the medical community, however, is that consuming fruits and vegetables in juice-form is still better than not consuming them at all," he said.

If you find the taste of celery juice hard to get used to, flavorings like lemon or lime or ginger root can pack a flavor punch without changing the nutritional or caloric values.

If you really don't like the taste of celery juice but still want the benefits, throw it in a smoothie.

Here is a favorite recipe from Sass.

Cynthia Sass smoothie recipe

Ingredients


1/2 cup organic celery juice

1/2 cup chopped kale

1 small frozen banana

1/c frozen mango

1/2 ripe avocado

1 scoop pea protein powder

1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice

1-inch cube fresh ginger root

3 fresh organic mint leaves

Directions

Add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug132018

Positive thinking can be healthy, but reality checks are important: Study

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. RICHA KALRA

(NEW YORK) -- Thinking positively is often good for brain health -- but a new study shows it's important to proceed with caution.

Positive thoughts seem to increase connections between regions of the brain in favorable ways. But the study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, showed that optimism can also come with risks.

"We were interested to show the science behind an old phenomenon, called the optimism bias," said co-author, Dr. Bojana Kuzmanovic, Cognitive neuroscientist at Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, in an interview with ABC News. "What we conclude and believe depends on what we want to believe."

To see how optimistic beliefs influenced their brain activity, researchers from Germany and Switzerland looked at fMRI brain images and analyzed survey responses using computer models from 24 self-described positive thinkers, 10 men and 14 women.

When learning new information, these people were more likely to incorporate good news than bad news into their overall belief systems. The good news increased the activity in the reward region of the participants' brains. When the participants rejected bad news, the same reward region also showed increased activity. Plus, the reward regions of their brains increased connections to other thought-processing, or cognitive, areas of their brains.

The stronger the individual's original optimism bias was, the stronger the connections were between the cognitive areas of their brains.

Although increased activity in the reward centers and increased neural connections might sound great, there was an important caution noted in the study.

The optimism bias -- a thought process that leads people to believe that they are less likely to run into a negative event than other people -- was strong. In other words, optimistic people can believe "bad stuff only happens to other people."

This bias can have a strong unconscious influence, preventing people from taking precautionary measures when making important decisions.

"Even politicians making big decisions could be using this bias," said Kuzmanovic. "It is important to consider an alternative viewpoint, especially when you really care about the outcomes, and there is a lot at stake."

There are some other factors that researchers noted could have influenced the effects on participant's brains. Some ideas could have been especially positive for certain individuals because of their tastes or experiences and it's possible that hearing good news directly after bad news made it even better.

Kuzmanovic acknowledged that the implications of this phenomenon are not all bad. Previous studies have shown that incorporating positive thoughts into beliefs can lead to better cardiovascular health and an improvement in a person's overall ability to cope with stress.

"People do have positive value for their positive beliefs," said Kuzmanovic. "It is just about being aware. These influences are present in all the decisions we make, and may put us in danger of making biased decisions. When making important decisions, we should consider collaborating with others to understand different perspectives."

Richa Kalra, M.D., is a resident physician specializing in psychiatry and working in the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug132018

Study: Young children talking back and forth with adults strengthens language regions of brain

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ and DR. RICHA KALRA

(NEW YORK) -- Adults who hold back-and-forth conversations with young children rather than just talking to them may be helping to strengthen connections between the language regions of the children’s brains, new research shows.

The new study published today in The Journal of Neuroscience found that dialogue with adults may lead to stronger pathways between two brain regions critical for language development in young children.

“Our findings show that the information highways between the language regions of the brain were stronger in children who took turns talking with their parents, and the greater connectivity held true independent of socioeconomic status,” said Dr. Rachel Romeo, postdoctoral research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study, in an interview with ABC news.

The study by a team from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania was based on results from a relatively small group, 40 children ages 4 to 6.

The researchers recorded the children and their parents for two days to capture the number of different words children heard, the number of words they spoke, and the number of turns they took in back-and-forth conversations with their caregivers. The team then used an MRI to take images of the children’s brains, and performed common office tests to measure the children’s verbal and cognitive abilities.

Children who took more turns in back-and-forth conversation with their parents had stronger connections between the brain regions responsible for comprehension and production of speech, and also scored higher on verbal skills tests, the study found.

It is well known that the quantity and quality of that language that children hear early in life predicts their future verbal and cognitive skills.

In a study in the 1990s, researchers found that by the time children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds reach school age they are exposed to on average 30 million more words than children growing up in lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The findings became known in the medical community as the “word gap.”

Since then, much of the focus of early childhood language development has been on getting children to hear a greater number of words. Romeo believes the word gap is an overly simplistic approach to language development, and her team’s work is part of a movement to think more about the quality of speech children are exposed to as opposed to just quantity.

While other research has linked children's verbal skills to the complexity of conversations they have when young with adults, this is the first study to suggest which specific structural changes in the brain might be responsible for this association. As this is a small study, the connection will need to be proven in broader work.

“This was an early-stage study to determine whether these relationships [between conversational speech and structure of the brain] exist and now that we know they do, we will move to an intervention study where we will bring children and parents in and target those brain regions,” Romeo said.

If the study is confirmed, it’s an inexpensive intervention that any caregiver can do.

“When you engage children in conversation, you can target language for their appropriate level of development … They’re getting that optimal feedback,” Romeo said.

Edith Bracho-Sanchez, M.D., is a pediatrician and consultant for ABC News, and Richa Kalra, M.D., is a resident physician specializing in psychiatry working in the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug132018

Baby boy dies after he's left for hours in hot car in Domino's Pizza parking lot

ABC News(EMPORIA, Va.) -- A 6-month-old boy died after being left for hours in a hot car in a parking lot outside a Domino's restaurant in Virginia, police said.

The baby's mother, an employee at the Domino's in Emporia, Virginia, had dropped off one or two other children at a day care Friday before driving to work, Emporia Police Chief Rick Pinksaw told ABC News Monday.

The baby was in the car for several hours, Pinksaw said, though he declined to specify exactly how long.

Officers responded to the parking lot at about 9 p.m. and performed CPR on the infant before he was taken to a hospital, Pinksaw said. Emergency room staff tried to revive him but the baby was pronounced dead, he said.

The temperature reached 90 degrees in Emporia Friday with a heat index -- or what it feels like -- of 96 degrees.

"We're having a hard time wrapping our heads around how this could occur," Pinksaw said, calling it "such a tragic situation."

"I don't understand how anybody could leave a child in a vehicle. With the way the weather is with the heat, I just think, you know, if you put kids in your car, you need to account for those kids when you get out of the car," Pinksaw said.

"These kids are helpless and they depend on their parents or their caregivers to take care of them."

No charges have been filed against the baby's mother, 30-year-old Blondia Curry, Pinksaw said, adding that the decision will be up to prosecutors.

Autopsy results are pending, he said.

At least 33 children have died from hot cars this year in the United States, according to the organization KidsandCars.org.

This is also the fourth hot car death this year in Virginia, the organization said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Aug122018

FDA approves marketing for a contraception app for the 1st time 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time ever has green-lighted a birth control app to be marketed as a method of contraception.

The app, Natural Cycles, calculates when a woman is most likely to be fertile using their daily body temperature data and their menstrual cycle information.

The app then tells users what days they are more likely to be fertile and should abstain from sex or use protection if they do not wish to get pregnant.

"Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly," Dr. Terri Cornelison, the assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

"But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device," she added.

The app had a "perfect use" failure rate of 1.8 percent in clinical studies that involved more than 15,500 women, or a "typical use" failure rate of 6.5 percent, according to the FDA. The "typical use" failure rate took into account women who sometimes did not use the app correctly or may have had unprotected sex on a day when the app flagged that they were fertile.

Natural Cycles has, however, courted controversy in Europe, as some women have reported unwanted pregnancies while using the app as their main form of birth control.

Sweden's public broadcasting company SVT reported that 37 out of 668 women who received an abortion at a Stockholm hospital from September 2017 to the end of December 2017 were using the app and still had an unwanted pregnancy.

ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton emphasized that no method of contraception is perfect except abstinence, so it's not completely surprising that women have still gotten pregnant while using it.

Ashton added that apps can be useful in that they enourage women to be aware of their bodies' monthly changes. If a woman does decide to use an app for birth control, however, she needs to have a plan for what she would do if she does have an unplanned pregnancy.

Most contraception pills have a "typical use" failure rate of approximately 9 percent, according to Ashton, which is actually higher than the rate of the app, the FDA's data showed.

Still, Asthon says that women should ask their doctors about risks, benefits and alternatives for any contraceptive method they are using.

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