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Wednesday
Mar302011

Can Too Little Sleep Leave You Laughing?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- It's easy to spot someone who has missed an entire night of sleep. Grumpy. Irritable. Focusing on the negative. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Harvard Medical School suggest adding a new word to that list -- euphoric.

Researchers have found evidence that the human brain, deprived of sleep, swings both ways, focusing on positive, as well as negative, experiences. And, they add, that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to their study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation sensitizes the networks in the brain that have long been associated with rewards. And that, they suggest, could contribute to rash decisions and risky behavior.

"Our previous research showed that when you are sleep deprived your brain is excessively reactive to negative or unpleasant emotional experiences," psychologist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley said. "But what we didn't know at the end of that study is what happens on the other side of the coin. What happens when you are sleep deprived and you see rewarding stimuli or experiences?”

Some who suffer from severe depression appear to get better if they are deprived of sleep, but the benefit is often short lived. Walker wondered if healthy adults would also look on the bright side of life if they missed an entire night of sleep. He noted that people who have partied or worked through the night are sometimes giddy and prone to giggling. Is it real, or are they just punch drunk?

To find out, he and his colleagues recruited 27 adults, age 18-30, and divided them into two groups. Some of the participants lived a normal couple of days, separated by a full night of sleep. The rest were confined to the sleep lab at Berkeley, where they ate a normal diet, but were kept awake for an entire night. They got no caffeine, no alcohol and not even a brief nap.

The experimenters monitored the participants throughout the period, ensuring that none of them fell asleep even for a few minutes. During the experiment each of the participants, both the sleepers and the none sleepers, were shown a series of 100 images and instructed to push a button indicating if each image was neutral or pleasant. And they did this while inside a brain scanner.The images were roughly half and half, with around 50 percent positive and the rest neutral. And that's exactly what the sleepers found. But the non-sleepers found far more of the images pleasurable than the sleepers, suggesting they wanted to look for positive experiences. And the brain scans revealed something that the experimenters found very interesting. Participants who had missed a night of sleep were dramatically affected by the images.

"The regions of the brain showed extensive reactivity to the emotionally positive pictures, and it was appearing in the classical reward centers of the brain largely regulated by the chemical dopamine, which is obviously associated with pleasure," Walker said. "It's as though the sleep-deprived brain swings equally in both emotional directions, the negative, and now the positive."

There was significantly less response in the brains of the sleepers.

"When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum," Walker said. "But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."

Too little of it can make us cranky, difficult, and, it now seems, giddy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

FDA Committee Begins Weighing in on Food Dye's Link to ADHD

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING) -- The Food and Drug Administration will begin a two-day meeting Wednesday to determine whether food coloring and other additives can make children hyperactive.

The administration's Food Advisory Committee will meet in Silver Spring, Maryland to consider any links between the man-made dyes and ADHD, and advise the FDA if there is a need to take action to protect consumer safety.

Back in 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the agency to revoke approvals for eight certified colorings, asking the FDA to issue a consumer warning in the interim.  The dyes in question were FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5 and 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Viral YouTube Video: Baby Babble or Secret Language?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A viral video of two diaper-clad babies babbling in the kitchen has people wondering what the tots are talking about.

Eighteen-month-old fraternal twin boys Sam and Ren appear to be having a grown-up conversation complete with questions, answers, facial expressions and gestures -- even the odd laugh. But they aren't speaking English.

"These kids are right on the cusp of language," said Stephen Camarata, professor of hearing and speech Sciences at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville.

Instead of producing words, the boys are making different sounds in the tone and rhythm of speech.

"They're using the intonation patterns of sentences -- imitating sentences in a crude way," Camarata said. "It's one way that children learn how to talk."

"Even before they have words, they know how conversation works," said Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, education professor and director of the infant language project at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"They're producing syllables emphatically and using them for communication purposes," she said. "They're having a ball."

Eventually, Sam and Ren will start replacing bits of babble with English. But for now, the boys are content with their improvised idioms.

"They're laughing and grinning and imitating," Camarata said. "With twins you've got two kids at exactly the same developmental level going back and forth and having a blast."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Do Breastfeeding Dolls Cross The Line?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new doll that mimics the act of breastfeeding has some parents up in arms and the manufacturer defending itself against accusations of perversion.

Called Breast Milk Baby, the doll sold by Berjuan Toys for $89 allows children to imitate the act of breast-feeding by using a special halter top that comes with the toy.

The top is made from a colorful material with two flowers positioned where nipples would be. When the doll's mouth is brought close to a sensor embedded in the flower, the baby makes motions and sounds consistent with suckling.

Critics say the doll is over-sexualizing young girls or forcing them to grow up too quickly, but the company and supporters have said the toys are meant to teach young girls about the nurturing skills they'll need later in life.

In Spain, a breast-feeding doll called the Bebe Gloton, also made by Spain's Berjuan Toys, has been sold since 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Is Your County Healthy? Report Gives US Counties Annual Checkup

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- You may have an idea on how healthy your town or city is, but what about your county?

An annual set of reports is now available ranking the health of almost every U.S. county, and the results show many different factors play a role in shaping people's health.

"Although health care is really important, much of what influences health happens outside the doctor's office, including education, income, access to healthy foods, places to exercise and smoke-free air," said Bridget Booske, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in Madison.

Booske is also deputy director of County Health Rankings, a project done in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  One purpose of the reports is to help counties understand what influences people's health as well as to determine how long they will live.

ABC News looked at the five most populous states and which counties ranked highest (healthiest) and lowest (unhealthiest):

California:
-- Highest: Marin
-- Lowest: Trinity

Texas:
-- Highest: Williamson
-- Lowest: Marion

New York:
-- Highest: Putnam
-- Lowest: Bronx

Florida:
-- Highest: Collier
-- Lowest: Union

Illinois:
-- Highest: Kendall
-- Lowest: Alexander

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

FDA May Allow De Facto Generic of Pricey Preemie Drug Makena

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration has no intention of enforcing a regulation that one drug company sought to exploit to drive out competitors, an FDA official told ABC News.

The regulation invoked earlier this month by KV Pharmaceuticals would have allowed the company to corner the market for a drug used to prevent preterm births and sell it for 150 times what had been the going price.

KV Pharmaceuticals gained exclusive rights in February to produce a progesterone shot used to prevent preemie birth that it branded Makena. The shot had been offered by compounding pharmacies for between $10 and $20 per dose, but KV planned to sell it for $1,500 per dose.

The company then sent cease-and-desist letters to compounding pharmacies, saying the FDA would take action against them if they continued to synthesize the drug.

Though the FDA has not made an official statement, an official there, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told ABC News that this "is not correct" -- the FDA would not take action against these companies.

Because the FDA has no control over how companies it grants drug approval set prices, some health care experts said these comments, couched in anonymity, seem like an attempt to lessen the unintended consequences of the decision to grant KV Pharmaceuticals seven years of exclusive rights to the drug under the Orphan Drug Act.

Doctors, however, say they will need more than an anonymous comment to feel comfortable prescribing the unregulated, compounding pharmacy-made version of the drug.

KV Pharmaceutical have responded to the price controversy by announcing a Comprehensive Patient Assistance Program for Makena in which households, both insured and uninsured, making less than $100,000 a year will be subsidized.

In a statement to ABC News, KV Pharmaceuticals and partner company Ther-Rx, wrote: "We are committed to taking the appropriate steps to help ensure that all clinically-eligible patients have access to Makena."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Study: Second Cancer Not Often Related to Radiotherapy for First Cancer

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- What is your risk of getting a second cancer after receiving radiation for the first cancer? Not very high.

Researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute report that the proportion of second cancers related to radiotherapy treatment for first cancer in adulthood is small.

The authors followed over 600,000 cancer patients for up to 12 years from 1973-2002.

They found that nine percent developed a second solid tumor. Of these second cancers, only eight percent could be related to radiotherapy treatment for first cancer. The authors conclude that most of the other second cancers are due to other factors like lifestyles and genetics.

Lead researcher Amy Berrington de Gonzalez noted the study's usefulness to physicians.

"The findings can be used by physicians to really put the risks into perspective when they are talking treatment options with their patients," she said.

Gonzalez, who is an investigator for the NCI's radiation epidemiology branch, added that generally, the risks of radiotherapy are smaller than the benefits.

The study will be featured online March 30 in The Lancet Oncology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Mar292011

Radio Host's Son Hospitalized After Swallowing Tiny Magnets

BananaStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Television and radio personalities are used to talking about what happens in other people's lives, but for one Denver radio and TV host, the focus is now on her and her young son, who was hospitalized after he swallowed a handful of tiny magnets.

Denise Plante, the host of a morning radio show and a television show said on Facebook that her eight-year-old son accidentally swallowed the magnets after putting a ball of about 20 of them in his mouth. He was playing with what she said were the small magnets kids use to build things.

"Doing what a kid does, he stuck them in his mouth while joking around," Plante said. "The magnets were pulling his intestines together. He has five or six holes in his intestines and one hole in his stomach."

Plante went on to say her son is on a feeding tube and his stomach is being pumped. He's already had three surgeries and will be in the hospital at least another week.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it knew of more than 30 children who'd been injured after ingesting magnets. A 20-month-old child died and 19 others required surgery. The CPSC put out a special alert in 2007, warning parents of the dangers of small magnets and has recalled millions of toys because of the hazards posed by small magnets.

"If two or more magnets or magnetic components or a magnet and another metal object (such as a small metal ball) are swallowed separately, they can attract one another through intestinal walls. This traps the magnets in place and can cause holes (perforations), twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning (sepsis), and death," the CPSC wrote in the alert.

Since then, some manufacturers of toys with small magnets have since encased the magnets in plastic, so they can't be swallowed.

Dr. Sanjeev Dutta, an associate professor at Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., wrote a case study of another little boy who swallowed a magnet from a toy set. In a 2008 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, he discussed the case of Braden Eberle, then four years old.

He came to the emergency room after having stomach pain for several weeks, and Dutta had to remove the magnets, which were stuck together through the walls of different parts of Braden's intestine. He removed them laparoscopically, but Braden got an infection from the magnets and had to be hospitalized for six days.

This case drove Dutta to warn others of the dangers magnets pose to children.

"Magnets, when we were kids, were made of ferrite," Dutta said. "The new magnets are exponentially more powerful than the ferrite magnets. When they swallow these magnets, they could die from this."

Denise Plante is sending out her own warning about toys like the one her son was playing with.

"Please don't buy these for your kids, throw them out if you have them," she said. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Social Rejection Can Cause Physical Pain

Pixland/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- If it's happened to you, and it's happened to so many of us, you probably already know that sometimes love hurts. Now, a new medical study finds that those love pangs one may be feeling is more than just psychological.

An unwanted romantic breakup can cause a profound sense of loss and what's universally perceived as "pain," but is it really, in the medical sense, pain?  In a new study, researchers found that social rejection, such as thinking about a break-up, actually activates the same regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensation. 

A team of researchers headed by the University of Michigan studied 40 people who had experienced an unwanted romantic break-up within the past six weeks.  The subjects were shown a photo of  their ex-partner, and asked how they felt during the break-up.  They were then stimulated by a device that produces a response similar to holding a hot cup of coffee.  All the time, the subjects' brains were observed on a special MRI machine that illuminates areas where the brain is active. 

The researchers found that the same brain sensors were illuminated in both cases. The implication is that besides being distressful, social rejection and physical pain have a common physiological basis.  Yes, sometimes, in the medical sense, love does really hurt. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Maternity Advocates Challenge High Cost of Preterm Birth Drug

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The March of Dimes is teaming up with leading maternity experts to lobby for KV Pharmaceuticals to reconsider its decision to boost the price of a drug that prevents premature birth from $10 a shot to $1,500 a shot.

The drug company gained exclusive rights to produce a progesterone shot used to prevent premature births in high-risk mothers from the Food and Drug Administration in February. Soon after, it announced plans to list the drug at a price 150 times higher than the cost of the non-branded version women have been using for years. The shot has been available in unregulated form from specialty compounding pharmacies for years for $10 a pop for years, but now, marketed as Makena, the drug will cost $1,500 per dose -- an estimated $30,000 in total per pregnancy.

The pricing tactic has outraged doctors, patients, and leading maternity advocates. Several organizations and public officials have sent letters to KV Pharmaceuticals urging the company to amend its business plan. The March of Dimes, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine will meet March 29 with the company to urge KV to reconsider their pricing.

"Progesterone is so cheap to make and we never had a problem with the compounding pharmacies making it. There's probably some variation between pharmacies, which nobody likes, but nobody likes $1,500 a shot either. That seems like highway robbery," says Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

KV Pharmaceuticals plans to offer financial assistance to low-come households in need of the drug, but how private health insurance companies and Medicaid will respond to this price spike remains to be seen. Many doctors fearing that access to this treatment will become severely limited or interrupted for those currently mid-treatment.

And because FDA laws prohibit compounding pharmacies from making FDA-approved products, doctors will be legally obligated to stop using the cheaper version of this drug, a representative for the company told ABC News.

Doctors fear the financial burden this new pricing will place on the healthcare system as a whole. In a March 16 article on the issue in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Joanne Armstrong, a Texas-based obstetrician, wrote:

"[N]o program providing short-term financial assistance to some patients will mitigate the harm that this new cost will cause to publicly funded programs, including Medicaid, and the women who rely on them. Nor will it mitigate the cost to employers and individuals who purchase insurance coverage and therefore directly bear all increases in health care costs."

Armstrong estimated that preventing premature births with the old, non-branded version of the drug cost approximately $41.7 million a year, saving $519 million in medical costs that would have been incurred by caring for the pre-term babies. With Makena, the price of preventing the same amount of premature birth skyrockets to $4 billion annually.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio