In a recent commentary in JAMA Neurology, Elisa de Paula França Resende, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues write about how social determinants of health affect demographic patterns of dementia in the United States. Noting that with an aging population, the prevalence of dementia will increase substantially, Resende and her co-authors write that of the social determinants affecting dementia risk, health and socioeconomics act more strongly than do race or cultural identifiers. I will add here that being female also is involved in dementia risk, as women are at greater risk for it than men. Continue reading
Attendees of Health Journalism 2018 will likely have a difficult choice to make between this year’s two optional daylong field trips to Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic, Banner University Phoenix, University of Arizona College of Medicine, and the Circle the City medical respite center for the homeless.
One field trip will first stop at the Barrow Neurological Institute, where they will visit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, featuring a chance to try out the center’s unique balance machine. Continue reading
Are there different levels of death? Are you alive if you’re brain dead but on life support?
Many journalists and members of the public are unclear about the nuances of brain death. According to this new tip sheet from author and researcher Alan Cassels, this confusion directly affects issues such as organ donation rates.
Cassels notes that while a patient’s organs can be “kept alive” while awaiting transplantation, brain death is legally the same as cardiopulmonary death – death is death. It matters because the organ donor transplant list keeps growing. Continue reading
The lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., got one national reporter wondering: What other areas could have children affected by dangerous water?
Laura Ungar, who covers national and regional health stories for USA Today and Gannett, was part of a team looking at the wider implications of the water crisis in Flint to go beyond the Detroit suburb and seek what other areas could be facing unknown risks. Continue reading
A scientific scuffle played out in the pages of the Lancet recently. At issue was whether a team of scientists led by Dr. Damien Cruse at the University of Western Ontario had successfully used EEG, a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain, to detect awareness in brain-damaged patients who were in a vegetative state, a finding they first reported in 2011.
Other scientists who were working on the problem of awareness had been gobsmacked by the results.
Patients in vegetative states eventually open their eyes. They wake and sleep. But otherwise they have little awareness of what’s going on around them. Some of their reflexes may still be intact but, according to diagnostic criteria, they don’t respond to commands or understand language.
To show that 3 out of 16 of these patients were able to follow verbal instructions to imagine opening and closing a fist or wiggling their toes at the sound of a series of beeps was “pretty impressive,” says Andrew Goldfine, M.D., a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medical College and Burke Medical Research Institute in New York. Continue reading
In a Health Journalism 2013 panel focused on research taking place in regenerative medicine, Dany Adams, Ph.D., an associate research fellow at Tufts University, described her research with African frogs.
Through her research with bioelectricity, or electrical signals, she has proven that African clawed frogs can regenerate tails. She added that this particular species of frogs was a good candidate for the research, as the regeneration happens with a minimum risk of infection. What was most surprising when it came to the tail regeneration in the African clawed frogs is that the muscle, skeleton and spinal cord regenerated on their own, without the need of any additional therapies. She also shared that children can re-grow finger tips before the age of 10.
Adams said the possible implications for human benefits are great and implored journalists to cover such research so the public and legislators, who decide on funding for the continuation of such research, know about it. Continue reading