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Researchers, including those of Indian-origin, have developed novel neuroprotective compounds that may prevent the development of epilepsy.

In a study conducted in an experimental model of epilepsy in mice, the compounds prevented seizures and their damaging effects on dendritic spines, specialised structures that allow brain cells to communicate, researchers said.

In epilepsy, these structures are damaged and rewire incorrectly, creating brain circuits that are hyper-connected and prone to seizures, they said.

"In the current study, preservation of dendritic spines and subsequent protection from seizures, were observed up to 100 days post-treatment, suggesting the process of epilepsy development has been arrested," said Nicolas Bazan from Louisiana State University (LSU) in the US.

Bazan and Julio Alvarez-Builla Gomez from University of Alcala in Spain discovered and named the LAU compounds.

A number of LAU compounds were studied, which blocked a neuroinflammatory signalling receptor, protecting dendritic spines and lessening seizure susceptibility and onset, as well as hyper-excitability, researchers including Surijyadipta Bhattacharjee and Chittalsinh M Raulji from LSU said.

In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behaviour or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness, researchers said.

It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioural and emotional problems in conjunction with seizures.

Issues may also arise as a result of the stigma attached to having epilepsy, which can lead to embarrassment and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and other social settings, they said.

For many people with epilepsy, the risk of seizures restricts their independence and recreational activities. Epilepsy can be a life-threatening condition.

Some people with epilepsy are at special risk for abnormally prolonged seizures or sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. There is currently no cure, researchers said."Most of the anti-epileptic drugs currently available treat the symptom - seizures - not the disease itself," said Bazan.

"Understanding the potential therapeutic usefulness of compounds that may interrupt the development process may pave the way for disease-modifying treatments for patients at risk for epilepsy," he said.

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

Moderate exercise such as cycling and walking for just an hour daily may eliminate the health risks associated with sitting for eight or more hours a day, a new study has claimed.

Ever since a study in 1953 discovered that bus drivers in the UK were at greater risk of heart disease compared to bus conductors, scientists have found increasing evidence that lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for several diseases and for risk of early death.

Recent estimates suggest that more than five million people die globally each year as a result of failing to meet recommended daily activity levels, according to researchers from University of Cambridge in the UK.

Studies in high-income countries have suggested that adults spend the majority of their waking hours sitting down.

A typical day for many people is driving to work, sitting in an office, driving home and watching TV. Current physical activity guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, researchers said.

Researchers analysed 16 studies, which included data from more than one million men and women.

They grouped individuals into four quartiles depending on their level of moderate intensity physical activity, ranging from less than five minutes per day in the bottom group to over 60 minutes in the top.

Moderate intensity exercise was defined as equating to walking at 5.6 kilometres per hour or cycling at 16 kilometres per hour, for example.

Researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise was sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day.

However, as many as three out of four people in the study failed to reach this level of daily activity.

The greatest risk of early death was for those individuals who were physically inactive, regardless of the amount of time sitting - they were between 28 per cent and 59 per cent more likely to die early compared with those who were in the most active quartile - a similar risk to that associated with smoking and obesity, researchers said.

In other words, lack of physical activity is a greater health risk than prolonged sitting, they said.

"There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today's more sedentary lifestyles. Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce - or even eliminate - these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym," said Ulf Ekelund from University of Cambridge.

"For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time. For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it is getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work," researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal The Lancet.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

As much as 81 per cent of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs in India perceive a gender bias in performance evaluation and are more likely to quit jobs at mid-career level, a survey said.

Women in India tend to drop out of workforce at key phases in their lives, most notably around childbearing years and later at mid-management levels, the latest Kelly Global Workforce Insights survey on Women in STEM, said.

The most significant driver is the 'double burden syndrome' of women struggling to balance work and family in a culture where both men and women feel the family and household duties are primarily the woman's responsibility, it said.

While women represent 46 per cent of all enrolled undergraduate students in STEM, not many continue to pursue careers, according to the survey released here.

"41 per cent of women in technology companies leave after 10 years of experience, compared to 17 per cent of men," said Kamal Karanth, Managing Director, Kelly Services & Kelly OCG India. "This is a very worrying scenario."

Consequently, there are few women left to fill roles at the top, said the KGWI survey, adding, this glaring disparity is clearly visible in publicly traded companies.

Kelly Services, Inc. provides workforce solutions offering a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct-hire basis across the globe.

KGWI is an annual global survey that brings together work and workplace insights sourced from across the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions. The study takes a look at the talent gap that exists between men and women STEM fields with feedback from 1,64,000 workers across 28 countries and a multitude of industries and occupations, it said.

In 2015, 12 per cent of the companies had failed to fulfil the mandate of having at least one woman representative on their board, the survey said.

Of the 50 companies in the NIFTY index, only five had two female directors. 53 per cent met this directive by appointing directors that were either wives or sisters of executives and not really independent members.

According to the survey, 77 per cent of female workers complained of double standards in training opportunities for women, 76 per cent believed that men have a genetic advantage in math and science and 66 per cent felt that women would never get top positions irrespective of their performance.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

People with anger issues are wired to misunderstand the intentions of others in social situations which cause impaired judgement and escalates explosive outbursts, a new study has found.

Scientists found that people with intermittent explosive disorder (IED), or impulsive aggression, have a weakened connection between regions of the brain associated with sensory input, language processing and social interaction.

People with anger issues tend think others are being hostile when they are not and make the wrong conclusions about their intentions, researchers said.

They also do not take in all the data from a social interaction, such as body language or certain words, and notice only those things that reinforce their belief that the other person is challenging them.

Decreased connectivity between regions of the brain that process a social situation could lead to the impaired judgement that escalates to an explosive outburst of anger.

Researchers from the University of Chicago show that white matter in a region of the brain called the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) has less integrity and density in people with IED than in healthy individuals and those with other psychiatric disorders.

The SLF connects the brain's frontal lobe - responsible for decision-making, emotion and understanding consequences of actions - with the parietal lobe, which processes language and sensory input.

"It's like an information superhighway connecting the frontal cortex to the parietal lobes," said Royce Lee, associate professor at the University of Chicago.

"We think that points to social cognition as an important area to think about for people with anger problems," Lee said.

Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging, a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that measures the volume and density of white matter connective tissue in the brain.
Connectivity is a critical issue because the brains of people with psychiatric disorders usually show very few physical differences from healthy individuals.

"It's not so much how the brain is structured, but the way these regions are connected to each other," Lee said.

"That might be where we're going to see a lot of the problems in psychiatric disorders, so white matter is a natural place to start since that's the brain's natural wiring from one region to another," he said.

"This is another example of tangible deficits in the brains of those with IED that indicate that impulsive aggressive behaviour is not simply 'bad behaviour' but behaviour with a real biological basis that can be studied and treated," said Emil Coccaro, professor at the University of Chicago.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Children born to single mothers are generally well adjusted, with positive feelings about family life, although they do raise questions about the absence of a father, a new study has found.

"Indeed, at the age at which children begin to understand their family circumstances, they continue to function well," said Sophie Zadeh from University of Cambridge in the UK.

The number of children born to single women is increasing with the help of technology such as donor insemination and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), researchers said.

The study was an evaluation of 51 solo mother families who were compared with 52 heterosexual two-parent families with at least one donor-conceived child aged 4-9 years.

The participating families were matched in terms of the age and gender of the target child, and on demographic factors including the mother's educational level.

The study is the first to examine child adjustment and children's perspectives in solo mother families at an age at which children are old enough to understand their family circumstances and what it means to grow up without a father - and the only study to assess children's own reports about their social and family experiences, said Zadeh.

Mothers in both groups answered standardised questionnaires of child adjustment and parenting stress. In addition, the solo mothers completed an interview which asked about their children's feelings about a father, and whether or not this was a topic of family discussion, researchers said.

A total of 47 children within these solo mother families agreed to be interviewed. They were asked about family life and friendships.

There was no significant difference between the two family types when assessed for child adjustment according to a standardised questionnaire, researchers said.

However, higher levels of financial difficulties within the solo mother families, and higher levels of parenting stress, were each associated with higher levels of child adjustment problems, they said.

Mothers mostly reported that their children had neutral (39 per cent) or mixed (28 per cent) feelings about the absence of a father, although qualitative analysis of mothers' reports showed that conversations about fathers were a prominent feature of family life, researchers said.

As for the children themselves, most (89 per cent) who answered a question about changing their family circumstances either expressed a desire for just trivial changes (38 per cent) or no change (51 per cent).

Children mostly (59 per cent) reported high (19 per cent) or very high (40 per cent) levels of enjoyment of school.

All reported having at least one friend, and most (51 per cent) named five or more friends. The majority (63 per cent) had not been teased at school, or had experienced only trivial teasing (34 per cent), researchers said.

"Between the ages of 4 and 9, donor-conceived children in solo mother families generally seem to be doing well," said Zadeh.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 19:08

Eat more whole grains to live longer: Study

Eating at least three servings of whole grains daily such as whole wheat, oats and brown rice may lower your risk of death, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that for about every serving (16 grammes) of whole grains there was a seven per cent decreased risk in total deaths, nine per cent decline in cardiovascular disease-related deaths; and five per cent decline in cancer-related deaths.

The more whole grains consumed, the lower was the death rate. According to researchers, when three servings (48 grammes) were consumed daily the rates declined 20 per cent for total deaths; 25 per cent for cardiovascular deaths; and 14 per cent for cancer-related deaths.

"Previous studies have suggested an association with consumption of whole grains and reduced risk of developing a multitude of chronic diseases that are among the top causes of deaths, although data linking whole grain intake and mortality were less consistent," said Qi Sun from Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the US.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats and brown rice, contain dietary fibre, which may help improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers said.

Dietary fibre can also make you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories.
The analysis included 12 studies published through February 2016. The combined studies involved 786,076 men and women with 97,867 total deaths, 23,597 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 37,492 deaths from cancer.

Whole grains provide many nutrients, such as fibre, B vitamins, and minerals, which are removed during the refining process, researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

A university degree may be linked to an increased risk of developing a brain tumour, according to a new study which found that gliomas were more common among people who had studied at college for at least three years.

Researchers from University College London in the UK and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden based their findings on more than 4.3 million Swedes, all of whom were born between 1911 and 1961 and living in Sweden in 1991.

They were monitored between 1993 and 2010 to see if they developed a primary brain tumour and information on educational attainment, disposable income, marital status and occupation was obtained.

During the monitoring period, 1.1 million people died and more than 48,000 emigrated. 5,735 of the men and 7,101 of the women developed a brain tumour, researchers said.

Men with university level education, lasting at least three years, were 19 per cent more likely to develop a glioma - a type of cancerous tumour arising in glial cells that surround and support neurons in the brain - than men whose educational attainment did not extend beyond the period of compulsory schooling (9 years), they said.

Among women, the magnitude of risk was 23 per cent higher for glioma, and 16 per cent higher for meningioma - a type of mostly non-cancerous brain tumour arising in the layers of tissue (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord - than it was for women who did not go on to higher education, researchers said.

High levels of disposable income were associated with a 14 per cent heightened risk of glioma among men, but had no bearing on the risk of either meningioma or acoustic neuroma - a type of non-cancerous brain tumour that grows on the nerve used for hearing and balance, they said.

Disposable income was also not associated with heightened risk of any type of brain tumour among the women.

Occupation seemed to influence risk for men and women. Compared with men in manual roles, professional and managerial roles (intermediate and high non-manual jobs) were associated with a 20 per cent heightened risk of glioma and a 50 per cent heightened risk of acoustic neuroma, researchers said.

The risk of glioma was also 26 per cent higher among women in professional and managerial roles than it was for women in manual roles, while the risk of meningioma was 14 per cent higher, they said.

Single men also seemed to have a significantly lower risk of glioma than married/co-habiting men, but had a higher risk of meningioma. No such associations were evident among the women, researchers said.

The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

Teenagers in urban communities may have less aggressive behaviour if they live in neighbourhoods with more greenery, such as parks, golf courses or fields, a new study has found.

Researchers from University of Southern California (USC) in the US conducted the first longitudinal study to see whether greenery surrounding the home could reduce aggressive behaviours in a group of adolescents living in urban communities.

They followed 1,287 adolescents, aged nine to 18 years. They assessed the adolescents' aggressive behaviours every two to three years, asking parents if their child physically attacked or threatened others, destroyed things, or exhibited other similar behaviours.

Researchers then linked the adolescents' residential locations to satellite data to measure the levels of greenery in their neighbourhood.

The study found that nine to 18-year-olds who lived in places with more greenery had significantly less aggressive behaviours than those living in neighborhoods with less greenery.
Both short-term (one to six months) and long-term (one to three years) exposure to greenspace within 1,000 metres surrounding residences were associated with reduced aggressive behaviours, researchers said.

The behavioural benefit of greenspace equated to approximately two to two-and-a-half years of adolescent maturation, they said.

The study also found that factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parents' educational background, occupation, income level, or marital status, and whether their mother smoked while pregnant or was depressed, did not affect the findings.

These benefits existed for both boys and girls of all ages and races/ethnicities, and across populations with different socioeconomic backgrounds and living in communities with different neighbourhood quality, researchers said.

"Identifying effective measures to reduce aggressive and violent behaviours in adolescents is a pressing issue facing societies worldwide," said Diana Younan from USC.

"It is important that we target aggressive behaviours early on. Our study provides new evidence that increasing neighbourhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach that has not been considered yet," said Younan.

Researchers estimate that increasing greenery levels commonly seen in urban environments could result in a 12 per cent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behaviour in adolescents living in urban areas.

The results support the benefits of greenery in decreasing aggressive behaviours for adolescents living in urban communities, researchers said.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Gravitational waves or ripples in space-time captured by space detectors could soon be used to discover when and how some of the universe's largest black holes were born, scientists say.

Scientists led by researchers at the Durham University in the UK ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.

The amplitude and frequency of these waves could unveil the initial mass of the seeds from which the first black holes grew since they were formed 13 billion years ago and provide further clues about what caused them and where they formed, the researchers said.

The study combined simulations from the EAGLE project - which aims to create a realistic simulation of the known universe inside a computer - with a model to calculate gravitational wave signals.

Two detections of gravitational waves caused by collisions between supermassive black holes should be possible each year using space-based instruments such as the Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA) detector that is due to launch in 2034, the researchers said.

In February the international LIGO and Virgo collaborations announced that they had detected gravitational waves for the first time using ground-based instruments and this month reported a second detection.

As eLISA will be in space - and will be at least 250,000 times larger than detectors on Earth - it should be able to detect the much lower frequency gravitational waves caused by collisions between supermassive black holes that are up to a million times the mass of our Sun.

Current theories suggest that the seeds of these black holes were the result of either the growth and collapse of the first generation of stars in the universe; collisions between stars in dense stellar clusters; or the direct collapse of extremely massive stars in the early universe.

As each of these theories predicts different initial masses for the seeds of supermassive black hole seeds, the collisions would produce different gravitational wave signals.

This means that the potential detections by eLISA could help pinpoint the mechanism that helped create supermassive black holes and when in the history of the universe they formed.

"Understanding more about gravitational waves means that we can study the universe in an entirely different way," said lead author Jaime Salcido, PhD student in Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology.

"By combining the detection of gravitational waves with simulations we could ultimately work out when and how the first seeds of supermassive black holes formed," he said. Gravitational waves were first predicted 100 years ago by Albert Einstein as part of his Theory of General Relativity.

The waves are concentric ripples caused by violent events in the universe that squeeze and stretch the fabric of space time but most are so weak they cannot be detected.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

 

The Earth passed another unfortunate milestone when carbon dioxide levels surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) at the South Pole for the first time in 4 million years, according to US scientists.

The South Pole has shown the same, relentless upward trend in carbon dioxide (CO2) as the rest of world, but its remote location means it is the last to register the impacts of increasing emissions from fossil fuel consumption, the primary driver of greenhouse gas pollution, researchers said.

"The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark," said Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

"Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer," said Tans.

Over the course of the year, CO2 levels rise during fall and winter and decline during the Northern Hemisphere's summer as terrestrial plants consume CO2 during photosynthesis.

However, plants only capture a fraction of annual CO2 emissions, so for every year since observations began in 1958, there has been more CO2 in the atmosphere than the year before.

Last year's global CO2 average reached 399 ppm, meaning that the global average in 2016 will almost certainly surpass 400 ppm. The only question is whether the lowest month for 2016 will also remain above 400 metres, researchers said.

The annual rate of increase appears to be accelerating. The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped 3.05 ppm during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of monitoring.

Part of last year's jump was attributable to El Nino, the cyclical Pacific Ocean warming that produces extreme weather across the globe, causing terrestrial ecosystems to lose stored CO2 through wildfire, drought and heat waves.

Last year was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm – which set another record. This year promises to be the fifth.

"We know from abundant and solid evidence that the CO2 increase is caused entirely by human activities," Tans said.

"Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of CO2 increase has also been at a record high. And we know some of it will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years," he said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

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