Childhood nightmares could foreshadow mental health issues
Children who experience nightmares on a regular basis may be more at risk of mental health problems than children who have few or no nightmares, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of Warwickfin the U.K. followed sleep patterns of 6,800 children until the age of 12. Throughout the study, researchers asked the parents questions about their children’s sleep behaviors. At the end of the study, the children underwent assessments for hallucinations, delusions and other psychotic experiences.
The results of the study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that the children who had nightmares on a regular basis increased their risk of developing mental health problems by more than three times, and the risk was almost doubled if the children also experienced night terrors.
Researchers said that they are unable to conclude that treating sleep issues may prevent psychotic events, as the relationship between psychosis and sleep issues remains unclear. They said that it is important, however, to identify signs of any potential mental illness early on in life in order to prevent disorders in adulthood. In order to fight nightmares, researchers suggested avoiding anxiety-promoting films and computers at night, getting regular sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene.
Researchers use laser-activated drug delivery to fight cancer
Scientists have developed a new treatment called “light-activated drug delivery,” which they said can fight cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.
The new treatment, created by a team of scientists from both French research centers and universities in the U.S., involves a new type of nanoparticle—a microscopic particle of matter that usually measures less than 100 nanometers. The method works by inserting chemotherapy drugs inside the nanoparticles, which can be activated by tissue-penetrating light. The researchers tested their method on lab-cultured human breast cancer cells, and because they were able to follow the nanoparticles’ progress throughout the body using molecular imaging techniques, they could trigger the drug release when the nanoparticles were at the appropriate location.
The study’s findings, published in the journal SMALL, suggest that the light-activated drug delivery treatment may increase a drug’s cancer-killing power, as well as reduce side effects of typical cancer treatments, since many therapies damage healthy tissue cells during the process of killing cancer cells. Currently, the tissue-penetrating light trigger works only at a small range, which means that the treatment currently is limited to breast, colon, ovarian and stomach tumors, which are all relatively close to the skin’s surface.
Obesity and birth control pills may increase risk of MS
Risk of multiple sclerosis (MS)—a progressive disease involving damage to the central nervous system—may be increased by taking birth control pills and obesity, according to new findings that will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.
The findings come from two separate studies, the first of which was conducted by scientists from the Raúl Carrera Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires. Researchers analyzed the body mass index (BMI) of 420 individuals between ages 15 and 20—half of whom had MS and half of whom did not. They found that the participants who became obese before the age of 20 were twice as likely to develop MS than the participants who were not obese.
In the second study, scientists from Kaiser Permanente Southern California compared the use of birth control pills among 305 women with MS and 3,050 women without MS. Researchers found that women who took birth control pills were approximately 35 percent more likely to develop MS than women who did not take the contraceptives.
Research in MS has shown that the rate of MS among women has been on the rise. Part of the reason may be due to obesity and the use of oral contraceptives, suggests the findings of the two new studies. People who fall under one or both of these categories should speak with their health care provider before making any changes in their health behaviors.
Nutrition labels get big makeover
Nutrition labels on food and beverages may be getting what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling the “first major overhaul” in more than 20 years.
The FDA’s proposed changes come as a response to the public’s increasing interest and concern surrounding nutrition labels’ information and its implications for their health. The labels would include the following information: total calories per serving–in much larger type–instead of “calories from fat”; how much sugar is natural and how much has been added; updated daily values for sodium and dietary fiber, and information on vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron.
Another main goal of changing nutrition labels is to address obesity by helping consumers make informed decisions about calories and portion control. A recent report found that overall obesity rates in the U.S. have not changed over the last decade and still affect more than a third of Americans. Along with labeling changes, changes have been announced that will require foods to pass certain standards before they can be marketed in schools.
The FDA will be accepting feedback from the public on their propositions for about three months, after which the new labels may be implemented.
Empathy for others may actually cause physical pain
Feeling empathy for others who are experiencing emotional or social pain may also cause a person to feel physical pain, according to new research.
In the study, scientists from the International School for Advance Studies (SISSA) in Italy showed participants videos of real people, in which one person—either a player or a friend—was deliberately being excluded in a game of catch. Researchers measured the participants’ brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Researchers then conducted another experiment, in which participants or their friends received a “mildly painful” stimulus and had to witness each other’s experience.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, showed that the same region of the brain (the posterior insular cortex) was activated when the participants experienced social and physical pain. Researchers also found that the brain region was activated when the participants experienced the social or physical pain themselves, as well as when they saw a friend experiencing pain.
The findings add to previous evidence that suggests that humans can feel the pain of others. Researchers said that their study supports the theoretical model of empathy, which says that one’s representation of another person’s emotions is based on the representation of one’s own emotional experiences in similar situations.