Even minor oxygen deprivation at birth can harm later cognitive function

Birth is a time of peril for the human brain, especially in pre-term infants. For vulnerable “preemies,” biochemical signs of reduced blood oxygen levels (hypoxia) soon after birth are associated with lower IQs and language skills. In 2001, premature babies were 12 percent of U.S. births – the highest level in 20 years, due in part to more multiple pregnancies, induced labor, and older mothers. The January issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA) reports on links among pre-term birth, risk for birth hypoxia and cognitive problems, and reveals how the risk threshold for brain damage in preterm babies could be lower than thought.

Monkeys Show Sophisticated Learning Abilities

Psychologists have found evidence that monkeys have sophisticated abilities to acquire and apply knowledge using some of the same strategies as do humans. Specifically, the researchers have discovered that rhesus monkeys can learn the correct order of arbitrary sets of images and can apply that knowledge to answer new questions about that order. Not only can the monkeys choose which image came first in the same list, but they can also compare the order of pictures that came from different lists, found the researchers. The scientists said they have not yet found the limits of the monkeys’ learning capacity.

Researchers find link between improved memory and the use of neurofeedback

The results announced in the International Journal of Psychophysiology this month show a link between neurofeedback training and improved memory in a 40 person trial. Dr David Vernon, from Imperial College London at the Charing Cross hospital says: “Previous research has indicated that neurofeedback can be used to help treat a number of conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, epilepsy and alcoholism by training particular aspects of brain activity, but this is the first time we have shown a link between the use of neurofeedback, and improvements in memory.” Neurofeedback is a learning procedure that has been involved in treatments enabling participants to normalize behaviour, stabilize mood and improve their cognitive performance. It works by allowing people to watch their brain activity, and through this, find a way to correct or improve it.

Pharmacy consultations cut death, hospitalization rates

Patients may be less likely to die or be hospitalized from drug-related complications if they talk to their pharmacists about their prescriptions, new research finds. Intensive pharmacy consultations for patients taking “high-risk” medications contributed to an 8 percent drop in the number of drug-related deaths over two years, compared to the death rate among similar patients who received minimal or no pharmacy consultations, according to the study.

Mouse model links alcohol intake to marijuana-like brain compounds

Brain molecules similar to the active compound in marijuana help to regulate alcohol consumption, according to new reports by scientists. In studies conducted with a strain of mice known to have a high preference for alcohol, the scientists found greatly reduced alcohol intake in mice specially bred to lack CB1, the brain receptor for innate marijuana-like substances known as endocannabinoids. The effect was age dependent, the Bethesda group found. The New York scientists showed that the endocannabinoid system activates a brain region known as the nucleus accumbens, which plays a major role in mediating the rewarding effects of alcohol.

Cherokee literature still affected by history of removal

A history of psychological, physical and spiritual “removal” from their land continues to have an impact on the literature of the Cherokee people, says Professor Daniel Justice of English at the University of Toronto. Justice, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, says the Cherokee people have historically responded to the forced uprooting of many generations by either accommodating European culture without feeling a sense of sacrifice or by challenging Euro-western mores and philosophies. Justice is currently completing research for his book Our Fire Survives The Storm.

Research shows TV carries messages that influence infants’ behavior

What do infants learn as they watch people talk or act in a certain manner? If a television is on in a room, how much do infants pay attention to it? These are questions Donna Mumme, assistant professor of psychology at Tufts University, answers in her study, “The Infant as Onlooker: Learning from Emotional Reactions Observed in a Television Scenario.” Co-authored by Anne Fernald of Stanford University, the article is published in the January/February issue of Child Development, the publication of the Society for Research in Child Development.

Meditation Benefits Schoolchildren, Study Finds

A Medical College of Georgia pilot study using meditation to help lower blood pressure in teens was so successful that the project has been extended to five high schools and a middle school. Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute with over 30 years of experience in teaching and applying meditation techniques, conducted the pilot five years ago, teaching meditation to students with high-normal blood pressure at a Richmond County high school. The results, published in a 1999 edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, cited lower blood pressure and other improvements among participants. The success spurred the GPI to expand the project to include 156 high school students and 80 middle school students in Richmond County. The study is funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

Young adults with insulin-treated diabetes have elevated stroke risk

People with insulin-dependent (type-1) diabetes have an increased risk of dying from a stroke, according to first-time findings from a large, community-based study reported in today’s rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. Cardiovascular disease is already recognized as the main cause of long-term complications and death in patients with diabetes. The likelihood of death from cerebrovascular disease ? related to the blood supply in the brain and the No. 1 cause of stroke ? has not been previously reported for patients with type-1 diabetes. Previous studies have shown that cerebrovascular death rates are raised in patients with type-2 diabetes (non?insulin-dependent diabetes).

Study examines aging ‘Happy Days’ cohort

They say money can’t buy love, but could it change the structure of your brain? When the going gets tough, do the tough live longer? And if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what can hard apple cider do? For 45 years, the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) has provided policy makers and social science researchers with an unparalleled look at how education, career and family affect adult life. Housed in the Center for Demography of Health and Aging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this groundbreaking study repeatedly surveys thousands of 1957 graduates from all of Wisconsin’s high schools about their interests and experiences, habits and health.