Monday, December 30, 2013

Which Gender Needs More Sleep and Why?

My opinion:  There seems to be some information missing here.  One of the main reasons women need more sleep than men is supposedly because women are more mentally active.  However, even in cases where men are just as active, they wouldn't need quite as much sleep.  So what could be some biological factors that account for this?  Funnily enough, it could be that women simply prefer to sleep more than men do, but I think this is an oversimplification.  I will say that women seem to have sleep related disorders more often then men do, for example, chronic fatigue syndrome.  Perhaps these illnesses relate back to the findings presented here.  Aside from the biological aspects, one can be sure that the stereotype of angry, hostile women in the morning will penetrate deeper into our society.  Let's hope it doesn't become too strong, although I also hope women realize their potential disposition to the morning blues.   

Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men: Research Shows Stronger Mental, Physical Response To Inadequate Rest

woman sleeping
(Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock On average, women experience more consequences from inadequate sleep compared to men.
Women need more sleep than men, according to a recent study. Researchers from Duke University have discovered that, compared to men, women experience more mental and physical consequences from inadequate rest. Besides giving half the population a legitimate reason to sleep in, the findings could also inspire new health recommendations for women at greater risk of heart disease, depression, and psychological problems.
The study, which was led by clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus, estimated men and women’s respective needs for sleep by assessing their ability to deal with insufficient rest. According to Breus, the experiment suggested a sharp difference between genders. "We found that women had more depression, women had more anger, and women had more hostility early in the morning," he told reporters.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Glowing Worms Could Lead To Huge Medical Advancements

My opinion:  We read daily of strange medical problems that you think would be easily avoided.  For example, the woman who was given a c-section with no baby inside.  I was also just reading about a woman who had a towel lodged near her lung for seven years after doctors forgot to remove it after a surgery.  This article suggests that there are many more ways to see inside the body than we currently have, which could alleviate diagnostic techniques.  Later in the article, it mentions that this new glowing compound is stable in areas without oxygen.  Hence, doctors may be able to examine more tissues where oxygen isn't present to detect cancers and other diseases.  Not to mention that a tremendous number of researchers rely on bioluminescence, making this discovery even more crucial.  Are there any other ways to see through the body, like new types of imaging?  Feel free to comment.

The Strange Glow of a Common Worm Could Lead to New Medical Technologies

Scientists estimate that 30 to 40 bioluminescent chemical compounds exist in living organisms such as beetles and bacteria. Of those, we only have good knowledge of about five, says Dimitri Deheyn, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Recently Deheyn and a team of researchers, including three from Connecticut College, took on the challenge of studying the mysterious luminescent mechanisms behind a common marine worm that hasn’t been studied in more than 50 years. The “parchment tube worm,” or Chaetopterus variopedatus, fluoresces a green glow when stimulated by ultraviolet light. It also releases puffs of mucus that give off a long-lasting blue glow. The worm spends its life in a self-made sediment tube, and its habitat ranges across most of the world’s oceans.
The mucus is unique partly because of its longevity and partly because of its color. In the sea water in which the segmented worms live, bioluminescence from other organisms usually appears in fleeting green flashes. In contrast, the glow of the mucus can last up to several hours. And it glows blue.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pet Dogs May Reduce Asthma and Allergies

My opinion:  So now we have yet another reason to love pets!  As the article mentions, the evidence  is pretty clear that dogs can help prevent asthma and some allergies.  However, there are still some points missing.  The effect that the researchers observed in mice may not be the same as in humans.  Also, we don't know if this effect works for adults, and if it does, to what extent?  Finally, does the same thing occur with cats?  After all, not all people looking for this benefit would want dogs.  Ultimately, I'm thinking that dog exposure helps build immunity, but it would be nice to know if this also happens in other situations.  Feel free to write any comments.


Dogs in the house protect against asthma, infection

Saturday 21 December 2013 - 12am PST

There have been several studies suggesting that when exposed to a dog regularly in early infancy, children's risk for developing allergies and asthma decreases. And now, researchers point to changes in gut microbes as the mechanism behind this safeguard.
The researchers, from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Michigan, published the results of their mouse study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
They explain that when mice were exposed to dust from houses in which dogs lived, the community of microbes in their gut - known as the gastrointestinal microbiome - was "reshaped."
This also resulted in decreased reactivity by the immune system to common allergens, they say.
In the study, the investigators introduced cockroach or protein allergens to the mice and found that inflammatory responses in the lungs - which are associated with asthma - were significantly reduced in mice that had been exposed to dust associated with dogs, compared with those who were exposed to dust from dogless homes.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Heat or Ice Better for Treatment?

My opinion:  I think that most of the time, when unsure how to treat pain, most people use ice packs instead of heat.  As the article says, this usually helps - heat is more for increasing blood vessel size when energy is needed, like before exercising.  So if trying to heal bleeding, cold ice is probably better.  The most important take away is not to put the ice directly on the skin, though - this is something I think people could do more often.  Also, I'm still unsure of one thing.  What if you feel nauseous?  I was always told to use heat in these situations, but the article doesn't indicate if this is right.  Any ideas?  Feel free to comment.

Treating Injury and Pain: Ice or Heat?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 5, 2013

Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat.
Today’s medical information comes from Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and recently appointed Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Kaitlyn Whitlock, PA-C, physician assistant in the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.
Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat. Below are a few simple guidelines to help you determine which approach to take.

What should you do if you get injured from a fall or collide with something/someone?

The answer is ICE. Injuries that occur after a twist, fall, or collision may produce localized swelling and bleeding. Treating the affected area(s) immediately with ice will work as a vasoconstrictor (narrowing blood vessels), limiting the amount of bleeding and decreasing inflammation. Decreasing inflammation also will decrease pain. Heat, on the other hand will expand the blood vessels, causing more bleeding and pain.

What if there was no specific injury? 

If, for example, you are experiencing worsening shoulder or knee pain, the answer is still ICE. Overuse, poor biomechanics (not using your muscles correctly or poor posture), arthritis, or anatomical variations (the way the bones line up) often cause inflammation. Ice will decrease this inflammation and should be applied daily or when sore.
In general, ice is preferred over heat for most pain and immediate injuries. When using ice to treat a part of your body, it is important to not apply it directly to the skin. Direct contact can damage your skin, and in more extreme cases, it may also damage underlying nerves. Place a towel or cloth between the ice and skin. Also, ice should be applied for only fifteen to twenty minutes at any given time.

When should I use heat?

Applying heat is a good option for tight or stiff muscles, especially before exercise. This will increase blood flow to the muscles, making exercise more tolerable. After exercise, apply ice. As with using ice, do not apply heat directly to the skin. Place a towel or cloth between the heat pack and skin to prevent burns. NEVER go to sleep with a heat pack applied.
*Some injuries are more serious than others. If your pain is unbearable or not improving within a couple of days, see your health care provider.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Imagining light/dark Can Change Pupil Size

My opinion:  I think this research may be applicable to more than at first glance. Perhaps if we can imagine certain situations, we can also physiologically affect other parts of our body besides the pupils.  We might use our imagination more often than we realize.  If we are exposed to a particularly bad scenario, we may imagine it becoming worse, thus sending us spiraling downhill.  For example, say it is very cloudy outside.  A person in the area, lacking light exposure, will experience a decrease in the size of his or her pupils.  But if the lack of light is depressing, then he or she may imagine the weather as even worse, further decreasing the pupils' size.  This in turn leads to less light absorption, pysiologically contributing to depression.  Any other examples of this effect?  Or am I just making incorrect guesses with this one?  Feel free to comment.

Pupil size adjusts when we imagine light or dark settings

Saturday 7 December 2013 - 12am PST

It is common knowledge that our pupils adjust in size when exposed to light or dark enviornments. But new research published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the size of our pupils also changes when we imagine these surroundings, even when our eyes are not directly exposed to light and dark.
Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway say their findings may be useful in studying the mental experiences of patients who suffer from severe neurological disorders.
To reach their findings, the investigators monitored pupil diameters of study participants by using an infrared eye tracker throughout a series of experiments.
The first experiment required participants to look at a screen that showed triangles with various brightness levels. They were then asked to actively imagine the triangles.
Results of this experiment revealed that the subjects' pupils varied in size, depending on the brightness of the triangle they were imagining. When they imagined brighter triangles, their pupils were smaller but enlarged as they imagined darker triangles.
Female eye
Experiments showed that pupil size adjusts when we actively imagine light or dark images or settings, suggesting that pupil size is linked to a subjective sense of brightness.
Another experiment required participants to imagine different scenery that had various levels of brightness. This included a sunny sky, a dark room or a face in the sun, compared with a face in the shade. Results showed that subjects' pupils changed in diameter with each scene.