Friday, June 20, 2014

Sleep strengthens memory after learning

I find that studying right before sleeping is very helpful in remembering things for a test. I remember I had crammed all my studying right before going to sleep and it turned out that it was advantageous for me because I remembered everything. Sleeping right after studying, helped my brain make connections, which helped me remember things during a test. I find that this only works for multiple choice test. When the tests, are short answer or essay based, studying right before sleeping is not as helpful. 

A new study provides important physical evidence to support the idea that sleep helps cement and strengthen new memories. Published in the journal Science, the study shows sleep after learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain - namely growth of connections between brain cells that help them pass information to each other.
Senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, professor of neuroscience and physiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, NY, says while we have known for some time that sleep is important for learning and memory, the underlying mechanism has not been clear.
"Here we've shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory," he explains, "We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain."
In experiments with mice, he and his team show for the first time that learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, a brain region involved with voluntary movements.
While we may appear restful as we slumber, our cells are not. The brain cells that were active taking on new information during waking hours, reactivate during deep sleep or slow-wave sleep - a phase when brain waves slow right down, and rapid eye movement, and dreaming, come to a halt.
For some time now, scientists have believed slow-wave sleep is when we form and recall new memories. But exactly how this happens physically is what this study shows for the first time - using mice genetically modified so a particular protein in their brain cells fluoresces when seen with a laser-scanning microscope.
Using this approach, the team could track the growth of new spines along individual branches of dendrites. A brain cell typically has many thousands of dendrites. These connect to other neurons via synapses and carry information in the form of electrical impulses....
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Young adults 'damage DNA' with weekend alcohol consumption

According to studies, it is believed that young adults are damaging their DNA with their weekend alcohol consumption. I believe alcohol can have some effects on the body, but I do not think it can damage DNA. It takes a lot of alcohol to do any damage & sure young adults drink a lot, but I think their bodies can easily adapt and maintain itself.
College students are renowned for partying at the weekends, and this usually involves having a drink or two. But new research has found that this level of alcohol consumption may cause damage to DNA. This is according to a study published in the journal Alcohol.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that around four out of five college students in the US drink alcohol and 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year as a result of unintentional alcohol-related injuries.

According to the study researchers, including co-author Jesús Velázquez of the Autonomous University of Nayarit in Mexico, previous research studying the effects of alcohol consumption has mainly been carried out in individuals who have been drinking for long periods of time.

These individuals usually have illnesses as a result of their alcohol consumption, such as liver damage, cancer ordepression.

But the investigators say their study is "pioneering," as it analyzes the effects of alcohol consumption on young people who are healthy.

Oxidative damage caused by alcohol consumption

The researchers set out to determine the level of oxidative damage caused by alcohol consumption in two groups of people between the ages of 18 and 23. Oxidative stress can cause damage to proteins, membranes and genes.

One group drank an average of 1.5 liters of alcoholic beverages every weekend, while the other group did not consume any alcohol.

All participants underwent blood tests to ensure they were healthy and were free of any diseases or addictions.

The researchers also measured the activity of dehydrogenase - an enzyme responsible for metabolizing alcohol (ethanol) into acetaldehyde - as well as acetoacetate and acetone activity.

Using a thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) test, the researchers were able to assess oxidative damage. The test allowed them to see how ethanol in the blood, and the acetaldehyde produced by dehydrogenase in reaction to ethanol, affects the lipid peroxidation that impacts cell membranes.

Results of the study revealed that the alcohol-consuming group demonstrated twice as much oxidative damage to their cell membranes, compared with the group that did not drink.

Signs of DNA damage through alcohol consumption

An additional experiment, called the comet test, was conducted to see whether the participants' DNA was also affected by alcohol consumption. This involved taking out the nucleus of lymphocytic cells in the blood and putting it through electrophoresis.

The researchers explain that if the cells are faulty and DNA is damaged, it causes a "halo" in the electrophoresis, called "the comet tail."

The experiment revealed that the group who consumed alcohol showed significantly bigger comet tails in the electrophoresis, compared with the group that did not drink alcohol.

In detail, 8% of cells were damaged in the control group, but 44% were damaged in the drinking group. This means the drinking group had 5.3 times more damage to their cells.

However, the investigators say that they were unable to confirm there was extensive damage to the DNA, as the comet tail was less than 20 nanometers. But the investigators say their findings still raise concern.

Overall, they conclude that oxidative damage can be found in young adults with only 4-5 years' alcohol drinking history, and that this is the first study to provide evidence of this damage in individuals at the early stages of alcohol abuse.

Original Article

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Two big meals may be better than six small ones

I believe that eating two big meals can work, but I believe that it is unrealistic. Many people cannot skip dinner, because dinner to so many people is an essential time for family. 6 small meals in a day is easier and more essential than giving up eating throughout the day. The only difficult part about eating 6 small meals a day is that it is harder to control calories throughout the day.
You've probably heard that eating multiple small meals throughout the day is a good way to stave off hunger and keep your metabolism revved up while trying to lose weight. But a new study could change your diet strategy.
Eating two large meals early and skipping dinner may lead to more weight loss than eating six smaller meals throughout the day, the study suggests.
"Both experimental and human studies strongly support the positive effects of intermittent fasting," lead study author Dr. Hana Kahleova told CNN in an e-mail.

The study
Researchers from the Czech Republic followed 54 patients with Type 2 diabetes for 24 weeks. The study participants were split into two groups at random. Both groups followed a diet that reduced their energy intake by 500 calories per day and contained 50 to 55% carbohydrates, 20 to 25% protein and less than 30% fat.
For the first 12 weeks, one group ate three main meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and three small snacks in between meals. The other group ate a large breakfast between 6 and 10 a.m. and a large lunch between noon and 4 p.m. The two groups then switched for the second 12 weeks.
Researchers asked the patients not to alter their exercise habits during the study.
The results
Although both groups lost weight and decreased the amount of fat in their livers, the group that was eating only two larger meals lost more during each 12-week session. Eating fewer, bigger meals also led to lower fasting blood sugar levels, meaning that the body's insulin production was working more efficiently.
The timing and frequency of the groups' meals did not seem to have an effect on the function of beta cells that produce insulin or on the glucose metabolic clearance rate - i.e. how fast their bodies were able to process and get rid of sugar.
Our expert's take
"This is interesting," says CNN diet and fitness expert Melina Jampolis. "But the first thing I think of is that it's not really liveable, telling people to skip dinner every day."
Jampolis is also concerned that the two groups did not end up eating the same total number of calories. "Eating six times a day, it's very hard to control calories." The researchers admit that while they did their best to ensure both groups consumed the same amount, the group that ate two larger meals may have eaten less.
While the study was small, Jampolis agrees that there's research to support eating a lighter meal later in the day.
Most of us consume the majority of our day's calories late at night when we're the least active, she says. And when we're not active, our insulin sensitivity drops. Arecent study showed that walking for just 15 minutes after dinner can help lower your risk for diabetes. Fasting between lunch and breakfast may have a similar effect, she says.
The takeaway
Don't skip dinner altogether. Focus instead on eating a hearty breakfast and lunch, and keep your last meal of the day low in calories.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In

In college, I set my school schedule to start at 9 or 10 am because I believe that this is the optimal time when I am more alert and awake. Schools start so early that students are not paying attention in their morning classes because they stayed up late doing homework. I believe test scores and grades overall would dramatically increase if schools started later. With that extra time, I would be able to eat breakfast, instead of being rushed to get to school on time. 

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Jilly Dos Santos really did try to get to school on time. She set three successive alarms on her phone. Skipped breakfast. Hastily applied makeup while her fuming father drove. But last year she rarely made it into the frantic scrum at the doors of Rock Bridge High School here by the first bell, at 7:50 a.m.
Then she heard that the school board was about to make the day start even earlier, at 7:20 a.m.
“I thought, if that happens, I will die,” recalled Jilly, 17. “I will drop out of school!”
That was when the sleep-deprived teenager turned into a sleep activist. She was determined to convince the board of a truth she knew in the core of her tired, lanky body: Teenagers are developmentally driven to be late to bed, late to rise. Could the board realign the first bell with that biological reality?
The sputtering, nearly 20-year movement to start high schools later has recently gained momentum in communities like this one, as hundreds of schools in dozens of districts across the country have bowed to the accumulating research on the adolescent body clock.
In just the last two years, high schools in Long Beach, Calif.; Stillwater, Okla.; Decatur, Ga.;, and Glens Falls, N.Y., have pushed back their first bells, joining early adopters in Connecticut, North Carolina, Kentucky and Minnesota. The Seattle school board will vote this month on whether to pursue the issue. The superintendent of Montgomery County, Md., supports the shift, and the school board for Fairfax County, Va., is working with consultants to develop options for starts after 8 a.m.
New evidence suggests that later high school starts have widespread benefits. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied eight high schools in three states before and after they moved to later start times in recent years. In results released Wednesday they found that the later a school’s start time, the better off the students were on many measures, including mental health, car crash rates, attendance and, in some schools, grades and standardized test scores.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the research, noted that the study was not a randomized controlled trial, which would have compared schools that had changed times with similar schools that had not. But she said its methods were pragmatic and its findings promising.
“Even schools with limited resources can make this one policy change with what appears to be benefits for their students,” Dr. Miller said.
Researchers have found that during adolescence, as hormones surge and the brain develops, teenagers who regularly sleep eight to nine hours a night learn better and are less likely to be tardy, get in fights or sustain athletic injuries. Sleeping well can also help moderate their tendency toward impulsive or risky decision-making.
During puberty, teenagers have a later release of the “sleep” hormone melatonin, which means they tend not to feel drowsy until around 11 p.m. That inclination can be further delayed by the stimulating blue light from electronic devices, which tricks the brain into sensing wakeful daylight, slowing the release of melatonin and the onset of sleep. The Minnesota study noted that 88 percent of the students kept a cellphone in their bedroom.
But many parents, and some students, object to shifting the start of the day later. They say doing so makes sports practices end late, jeopardizes student jobs, bites into time for homework and extracurricular activities, and upsets the morning routine for working parents and younger children.
At heart, though, experts say, the resistance is driven by skepticism about the primacy of sleep.
“It’s still a badge of honor to get five hours of sleep,” said Dr. Judith Owens, a sleep expert at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. “It supposedly means you’re working harder, and that’s a good thing. So there has to be a cultural shift around sleep.”
Last January, Jilly decided she would try to make that change happen in the Columbia school district, which sprawls across 300 square miles of flatland, with 18,000 students and 458 bus routes. But before she could make the case for a later bell, she had to show why an earlier one just would not do.
She got the idea in her team-taught Advanced Placement world history class, which explores the role of leadership. Students were urged to find a contemporary topic that ignited their passion. One morning, the teachers mentioned that a school board committee had recommended an earlier start time to solve logistical problems in scheduling bus routes. The issue would be discussed at a school board hearing in five days. If you do not like it, the teachers said, do something.
Jilly did the ugly math: A first bell at 7:20 a.m. meant she would have to wake up at 6 a.m.
She had found her passion.
She seemed an unlikely choice to halt what was almost a done deal. She was just a sophomore, and did not particularly relish conflict. But Jilly, the youngest of seven children, had learned to be independent early on: Her mother died when she was 9.
And she is energetic and forthright. That year, she had interned on a voter turnout drive for Missouri Democrats, volunteered in a French-immersion prekindergarten class, written for the student newspaper, worked at a fast-food pizza restaurant and maintained an A average in French, Spanish and Latin.
“It’s about time management,” she explained one recent afternoon, curled up in an armchair at home.
That Wednesday, she pulled an all-nighter. She created a Facebook page and set up a Twitter account, alerting hundreds of students about the school board meeting: “Be there to have a say in your school district’s decisions on school start times!”
She then got in touch with Start School Later, a nonprofit group that provided her with scientific ammunition. She recruited friends and divided up sleep-research topics. With a blast of emails, she tried to enlist the help of every high school teacher in the district. She started an online petition.
The students she organized made hundreds of posters and fliers, and posted advice on Twitter: “If you are going to be attending the board meeting tomorrow we recommend that you dress up!”
The testy school board meeting that Monday was packed. Jilly, wearing a demure, ruffled white blouse and skirt, addressed the board, blinking owl-like. The dignitaries’ faces were a blur to her because while nervously rubbing her eyes, she had removed her contact lenses. But she spoke coolly about the adolescent sleep cycle: “You know, kids don’t want to get up,” she said. “I know I don’t. Biologically, we’ve looked into that.”
The board heatedly debated the issue and decided against the earlier start time.
The next day Jilly turned to campaigning for a later start time, joining a movement that has been gaining support. A 2011 report by the Brookings Institution recommended later start times for high schools, and last summer Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, posted his endorsement of the idea on Twitter...
Continue Reading the Article Here
Original Article
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Study: Good night's sleep cleans out gunk in brain

I believe that sleep is important in getting rejuvenated and feeling new. Sleep can help a person feel more alert and aware. The brain is filled with toxins that gets built up everyday from stress, and other toxic things from everyday life. It is important to flush it out so we can think fresh. Sleep is an important way of accomplishing that. Getting adequate and great amount of sleep is crucial in optimal brain function.

Alicia Chang, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When we sleep, our brains get rid of gunk that builds up while we're awake, suggests a study that may provide new clues to treat Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

This cleaning was detected in the brains of sleeping mice, but scientists said there's reason to think it happens in people too.

If so, the finding may mean that for people with dementia and other mind disorders, "sleep would perhaps be even more important in slowing the progression of further damage," Dr. Clete Kushida, medical director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, said in an email.

Kushida did not participate in the study, which appears in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

People who don't get enough shut-eye have trouble learning and making decisions, and are slower to react. But despite decades of research, scientists can't agree on the basic purpose of sleep. Reasons range from processing memory, saving energy to regulating the body.

The latest work, led by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center, adds fresh evidence to a long-standing view: When we close our eyes, our brains go on a cleaning spree.

The team previously found a plumbing network in mouse brains that flushes out cellular waste. For the new study, the scientists injected the brains of mice with beta-amyloid, a substance that builds up in Alzheimer's disease, and followed its movement. They determined that it was removed faster from the brains of sleeping mice than awake mice.

The team also noticed that brain cells tend to shrink during sleep, which widens the space between the cells. This allows waste to pass through that space more easily.

Though the work involved mouse brains, lead researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard said this plumbing system also exists in dogs and baboons, and it's logical to think that the human brain also clears away toxic substances. Nedergaard said the next step is to look for the process in human brains.

In an accompanying editorial, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro said scientists have recently taken a heightened interest in the spaces between brain cells, where junk is flushed out.

It's becoming clearer that "sleep is likely to be a brain state in which several important housekeeping functions take place," she said in an email.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In a statement, program director Jim Koenig said the finding could lead to new approaches for treating a range of brain diseases.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quitting Smoking May Improve Your Mental Health

In the most studies, people who smoke daily reported that they have mood or anxiety issues. I see at my University people smoking even though smoking is banned on campus. I can hypothesize most of those people have some anxiety or mood issues. People also smoke because it relaxes them and relives stress for them. Overall, smoking is dangerous whether it is your mental illness or lung cancer. Smoking has no benefits to it. It will cause cancer. 

By Brian Krans

People with mental illnesses—from anxiety to bipolar disorder—are more likely to self-medicate.

When treating a patient for mental illness, experts tend to focus on bad habits that have the most dramatic impact on the patient’s life, namely alcohol and drugs, as they can worsen mental problems. Smoking, however, typically gets a pass.

But new research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that treating nicotine addiction can have positive effects on a person’s mental well-being.

How Quitting Can Improve Your Mental State

Researchers analyzed data from 4,800 daily smokers from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions survey and found that those with addiction problems or psychological issues had fewer problems three years later if they quit smoking.

The first time the survey was given, about 40 percent of daily smokers reported having mood or anxiety issues. Roughly half of daily smokers also had alcohol problems and a quarter had drug issues.

Three years later when the survey was given again, 42 percent of the people who still smoked had mood disorders. Of those who quit, only 29 percent had mood issues. Alcohol and drug use rates were also lower in former smokers.

“We don't know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health,” lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg said in a statement. “But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”

Besides the mental health benefits, there are also the obvious physical health benefits of quitting smoking.

“About half of all smokers die from emphysema, cancer, or other problems related to smoking, so we need to remember that as complicated as it can be to treat mental health issues, smoking cigarettes also causes very serious illnesses that can lead to death,” Cavazos-Rehg said.

Her study was published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

You Have to Admit You’re a Smoker First

You would think that someone who smokes cigarettes would admit to being a smoker, but researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine say that’s not always the case.

In a recent study in Tobacco Control, researchers show that in 2011 nearly 396,000 Californians—or 12.3 percent of the population—regularly smoked cigarettes, yet didn’t call themselves “smokers.” That includes the nearly 22 percent of people who smoked on a daily basis.

Not admitting you are a smoker is a major barrier to quitting. There’s no reason to stop doing something if you don’t do it in the first place, right?

“There is a risk for such smokers to continue to smoke and be adversely impacted by the tobacco they smoke, yet they do not seek any assistance nor do they plan to quit because they falsely believe they are not smokers,” Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy, a professor and chief of the Division of Global Health at UCSD said.

Original Article

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Kids and Cavities a Rotten Combo

I believe that kids these days are eating so much sugar and unhealthy foods that it is damaging their teeth. Oral health is a great indicator of overall health. If a child has a mouth full of cavities, then they are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits.  It is important that children eat healthy so they will have healthy oral health. In addition, many parents think it is unnecessary for kids to brush their teeth because their teeth are going to fall out anyways. That is a total myth and it is important for good oral hygiene as soon as your child tooth erupts. Parents should follow the tips that ADA offers down below. 
By Katie Moisse

Getting kids to care about oral health can be like pulling teeth. But cavities aren't just painful — they can interfere with learning, speech, eating and play.

Roughly one in six American kids has untreated cavities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And experts say those tiny holes can have major consequences on growth and development.

“Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and in the worst case it can change a kid’s life for the short or long term,” said Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist based in Augusta, Maine, and spokesman for the American Dental Association. “Taking steps to prevent it early on — as soon as the first tooth erupts — is key to having a lifetime of good oral health.”

Tooth decay accounts for 51 million missed school hours and 25 million missed work hours among parents annually, according to the American Dental Association. But some simple steps can cut the risk of cavities and set up good dental habits for life.

The ADA offers the following tips:
  • Eat a nutritious diet during pregnancy
  • Take your child to a dentist before his or her first birthday
  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss your child’s teeth daily as soon as two teeth touch
  • Avoid giving your child sugary and starchy snacks

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