Entries in Neurology (5)


Chocolate May Help Men Dodge Strokes, Too

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Men who consume moderate amounts of chocolate each week may have a lower risk of stroke, a new study finds.

Published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, the study looked at the diet patterns in more than 37,000 Swedish men between the ages of 39 and 75, asking about their consumption of various foods and drinks, specifically chocolate, and then reviewed their medical records going back 10 years.

The  researchers found the stroke risk was lower in men who’d  consumed chocolate, especially in those who reported consuming it in large amounts.

Men who reported eating the largest amount of chocolate — about one-third of a cup per week — had a 17-percent lower risk of stroke compared with those who did not consume any chocolate, the study found.

“While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind to find that chocolate may be beneficial in reducing stroke in men,” the authors, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, wrote.

When the investigators compared their results to those of previous studies, they found that they reinforced what had been previously suspected about chocolate’s link to lower stroke risk. But the previous studies looked only at the stroke risk in women; none had looked specifically at men.

“This will likely provide a rationale for chocolate lovers around the world to enjoy their treats with less guilt,” says Dr. Gary W. Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, who was not involved in this new research.

Surprisingly, the new study found that this chocolate effect was not specific to dark chocolate – about 90 percent of the chocolate the men in this study consumed was milk chocolate. Previous studies had suggested that the reduction of stroke risk was linked only to dark chocolate.

Many of chocolate’s benefits have been linked to substances called flavanoids, which appear to protect against cardiovascular disease, an effect researchers have attributed largely to their antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. While present in most forms of chocolate, flavanoids are most prevalent in dark chocolate.  It’s suggested that their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Not everyone is buying into the idea that milk chocolate is what people should be reaching for if they’re at risk for stroke.  Dr. Roger A. Brumback, a professor of pathology, psychiatry and neurology at Creighton University Medical Center, who was not involved in the current study, says that all chocolate is not created equal.

“The major advantage of dark chocolate over milk chocolate is that the flavonoids are not diluted by the addition of milk,” Brumback says. “Dark chocolate is about 35 percent cocoa, while milk chocolate can be as low as 10 percent. The patient would have to consume more milk chocolate, which would give a higher dose of sugars with its consequent negative possibilities.”

Other experts were quick to note that chocolate should not form the basis of anyone’s stroke prevention strategy — either for men or women.

“Stroke prevention would be one of the many cardioprotective effects, but I would also note that the effect is modest and pales in comparison to overall diet, regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco,” says Dr. David Katz,  founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


University of Chicago Student, 21, to Become Youngest to Attain M.D.

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Sho Yano says that even though the reference to the popular ’90s show Doogie Howser M.D. amuses him and makes him feel “pretty good,” he doesn’t want to be known as a “whiz kid.”

“I kind of want to be the doctor,” he said. “I got through training early [but] my dream is to have a real achievement. Finding anything that would be helpful to people in general. Just knowing that I’m gonna help someone. That would be great.”

A doctor is just what Yano will become Saturday when the 21-year-old becomes the youngest student to attain an M.D. from the University of Chicago.

In 2000, when ABC News interviewed him as a 9-year-old college freshman at Loyola University, he said he eschewed the word “genius.”

“I’m not a genius. I’m gifted,” he told ABC News. “I got a gift from God and I may be accountable to God for using it wisely. Besides, I have to work for it.”

When he was 12 — having already graduated in three years from Loyola University — Yano entered the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, participating in a program where students get both their doctorate and medical degrees.

He completed his first year of medical school, got his Ph.D. in molecular genetics and cell biology and then pursued the rest of medical school so that he’d be at least 18 when it came time to work with patients.

Yano was reading by the age of 2, writing by the age of 3 and composing music by 5. At the age of 8, he scored a 1,500 out of 1,600 on the SAT.

He said Monday that despite a lot of flak from psychologists, he was not socially stunted and that he appreciated his parents for allowing him to follow his own path and molding him into a well-rounded person.

Yano is now an accomplished pianist with a black belt in tae kwon do. He said for fun he played the piano and worked with computer and electronic hardware, calling himself a “hand-radio enthusiast.”

He’s not the only prodigy in the family, though. His only sister, Sayuri Yano, 15, is working on her second bachelor’s degree in violin performance at Johns Hopkins University.

Next up for Sho Yano? A five-year residency in pediatric neurology.

“I really don’t regret anything I did,” he told ABC News on Monday. “I have a good idea of how kids and teenagers act. I’m not sure that I would’ve enjoyed that. I don’t think I missed all that much. ”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Playing Music Protects Memory, Hearing, Brain Processing

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Want your brain to be as fit as a fiddle, even after you are old and gray? Then learn how to play a real violin. Or a tuba. Or just about any other musical instrument.

Scientific research over the years has shown that studying music has many rewards, from improving performance in school to dealing with emotional traumas, but the newest research shows that it can do even more than that. It can fine tune the human brain, biologically and neurologically enhancing its performance and protecting it from some of the ravages of time.

Think of musical figures who have had long careers -- from Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney to Barbara Cook -- and it appears there's something, beyond love of their art, that has kept them going.

Nina Kraus's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has been studying how music affects the human brain for years now, and the latest study from that busy lab shows that musicians suffer less from aging-related memory and hearing losses than non-musicians. It is believed to be the first study to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has a good impact on the aging process, according to Northwestern, where Kraus serves as professor of neurobiology, physiology and communication sciences.

Kraus and her colleagues attached electrodes to the heads of 87 persons ranging in age from 18 to 65, all of whom had normal hearing. About half the subjects had started taking music lessons before the age of nine, and had remained active in music throughout their lives. The others had fewer than three years of music lessons, and were classified as "non-musicians."

The purpose of the electrodes was to measure what neurologists call "neural timing," or how long it takes for a human brain to process an auditory signal. The normal aging process slows that timing, making it more difficult to process sounds, even the sound of a friend's voice in a crowded restaurant, Kraus said in a telephone interview.

The electrodes provided a "very objectively quantifiable" measurement of that processing time, which would normally be expected to be considerably slower in older persons than younger. But that did not turn out to be the case.

Older participants in the study who had made music a big part of their lives could process the signal just about as fast as the younger participants. The "non musicians," however lagged considerably behind, indicating that playing a musical instrument was crucial to retaining memory and hearing.

"As a musician, you get very good at pulling out important information from a complex soundscape," Kraus said, whether it's a musical performance or listening to someone speaking in a noisy room. "The orchestra is playing and you are pulling out the violin line, or the base line, or some harmony. You are always pulling out meaningful components from sound and that's really not all that different from hearing your friend's voice in a noisy restaurant."

"That involves hearing, but it's related to how quickly you can process information and how well you remember it," she said.

Both of those talents tend to decline with age, which is why so many older persons complain of memory lapse and an inability to hear someone in a noisy place. But this work suggests it doesn't decline, if playing a musical instrument is a personal passion over time.

Kraus said it's not enough just to listen to music. It's the intensity of actually performing that is the active ingredient.

"You are not going to get physically fit by watching spectator sports," she added.

Of course, neural timing is not the only component of hearing loss. The inner ear physically changes with age, and the tiny hairs that act as acoustic antennae inside the ear canal deteriorate.

And loud noises, like gunshots, shop tools, or the screaming shockwaves from acid rock, can all damage hearing. None of the participants in the study suffered that kind of damage. And only the "musicians" showed measurable signs of overcoming the tendency of the human brain to gradually slow down the time it takes to receive, process and act upon an auditory signal.

Kraus, whose latest study is in the online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, says the research shows that it's not just hearing that is helped by music. It's also memory, which is among the most common complaints from normal aging.

"If you couldn't remember what I said to you a few seconds ago, you wouldn't be making sense of what I'm saying right now," she said.

So music is good, but is it ever too late to start?

"From everything I know about how the brain changes with experience and what I know about the effect of musical experience on the nervous system, my scientific gut feeling is that it can only help," she said, quickly adding that she doesn't have the data to back that up yet.

Asked if she is a musician, she replied:

"I play a couple of instruments, not particularly well, but I play them with great joy."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lyme Disease to Blame for Woman's Erratic Behavior at NYC Hotel? YORK) -- The woman who reportedly wandered around the lobby of New York's famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel this past weekend wearing her panties over her pants, muttering to herself and carrying a gun has prompted medical experts to revisit the question of whether Lyme disease can have psychiatric manifestations.

After police charged Marilyn Michose, of Danbury, Connecticut, with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, the 46-year-old's mother told newspapers that her daughter has Lyme disease and the medication she takes makes her "manic."

It was unclear whether Michose's mother was referring to medication for Lyme disease or for some other condition.  Michose was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation after the incident.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick.  It commonly causes a skin rash, fever, headache and fatigue.  Whether the disease can have psychiatric manifestations has long been a controversy in the medical community.

While they can only speculate without knowing more about Michose's case, some experts believe a percentage of patients with Lyme disease go on to develop serious problems that might affect the brain, heart, eyes and other organs.

Skeptical experts, on the other hand, say there's little scientific evidence to back up the notion that long-term psychiatric problems can develop.  They say chronic Lyme disease, which can resist treatment and cause a litany of problems for many years, simply doesn't exist.

"With Lyme disease, you can develop some significant psychiatric problems," said Dr. Brian Fallon, director of Columbia University Medical Center's Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center in New York.  "Lyme disease is an infection that can spread throughout the body and when it spreads to the central nervous system, it can cause a wide variety of manifestations, such as memory problems, verbal fluency problems and sometimes in the more acute phases of brain infection, it can cause encephalitis, which is characterized by severe confusion or personality changes."

Fallon went on to say that about 15 percent of patients infected by Lyme disease who are not treated will develop neurologic problems.  Symptoms usually appear in the first few weeks after the tick bite.  Such problems, however, tend to go away after treatment but Fallon said sometimes, people get worse before they get better.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ibuprofen May Lower Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A drug commonly used for aches and pains could be useful against a far more serious ailment.  

Ibuprofen is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug sold over-the-counter under such familiar brand names as Advil and Motrin. Previous studies have suggested that these drugs may decrease the risk of getting Parkinson's disease.  

A new study published in the journal Neurology surveyed ibuprofen use in 136 thousand participants.  After six years, those who took ibuprofen two or more times a week were 38 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's compared to those who hadn't taken the drug.    This was true only with ibuprofen and not with similar drugs such as aspirin, naproxen, or acetaminophen.   

The findings do not mean that those with Parkinson's disease should start taking ibuprofen. The authors conclude that ibuprofen has potential protective effects against Parkinson's, and they advocate further investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio